Skip to main content

Full text of "The life and letters of George Gordon Meade, major-general United States Army"

See other formats


Cfte Hi&rarp 

of t|>e 

antoersitg of il3ort|) Carolina 




THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 




ENDOWED BY THE 

DIALECTIC AND PHILANTHROPIC 

SOCIETIES 




xT 



rv / 



2> 




V" 



UNIVERSITY OF N.C. AT CHAPEL HILL 



10001848306 



This book is due at the WALTER R. DAVIS LIBRARY on 
the last date stamped under "Date Due." If not on hold, it may 
be renewed by bringing it to the library. 


DUE RETURNED ,^ 


qJJ"! RETURNED 


^ 


0&^*' 






^-^>- 
































































































































Form No 513. 
Rev. 1/84 









Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/lifelettersofgeo1mead 



THE LIFE AND LETTERS 

OF 

GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

Volume I 




rffofwns /&i t> Si ft /M /!//■> <*' fry. Kj-pfwHetJ ^/tia/tj. 






,rr)3<2 
THE LIFE AND LETTERS 



OF 



GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

MAJOR-GENERAL UNITED STATES ARMY 



BY 
GEORGE MEADE 

CAPTAIN AND AIDE-DE-CAMP AND BREVET LIEUTENANT-COLONEL UNITED STATES ARMY 



EDITED BY 

GEORGE GORDON MEADE 



Volume I 



NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCHIBNER'S SONS 
1913 



Copyright, 1913, by 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

Published May, 1913 




EDITOR'S PREFACE 

Now that the fiftieth anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg 
is approaching, and the lesson of that great struggle and the far- 
reaching effect of its result are to be brought to every mind, it has 
become a duty to place before the people this life of General Meade. 

This work was compiled and written by General Meade's son, 
Colonel George Meade, and is edited by Colonel Meade's son. 

The volumes contain two sets of heretofore unpublished letters 
written by General Meade to his wife during his absence from home, 
while actively engaged in the Mexican and Civil Wars, and a nar- 
rative of General Meade's life during the periods not covered by his 
own writings, together with an account of the battle of Gettysburg. 

The letters take the form of a diary, and relate his personal experi- 
ences, his views on men and affairs, and describe the operations of 
the army under Generals Taylor and Scott in the Mexican War, and 
the Army of the Potomac in the Civil War. Such matters as do not 
bear in any way upon the purpose of this work have been omitted. 
These letters are from one who was a loving husband, a professional 
soldier in the highest sense, and a man who never truckled to the 
public. They are written to a devoted wife, who had a remarkable 
understanding in all matters, military and personal, that related to 
him and to whom alone he wrote with perfect freedom. 

The narrative opens with his genealogy and early life up to the 
time of his departure for the Mexican War. Continuing, it takes up 
his career from the time of his return from the Mexican War until he 
again leaves for the field in the Civil War, covering his services in the 
building of light-houses on the Atlantic coast, the Seminole Indian 
trouble in Florida, and the survey of the Great Lakes. Again, it 



<b 



v N 502543 



vi EDITOR'S PREFACE 

carries on the story from the time of his return from the Civil War 
until his death, describing the part he played during the reconstruc- 
tion period and the last days of his life. The account of the battle 
of Gettysburg appears in connection with the Civil War letters, be- 
ginning at the time when General Meade was placed in command 
of the Army of the Potomac. 

This work was compiled and written at the time when the 
petty, jarring interests of the Civil War were having their day, and 
history was being distorted by unscrupulous military and political 
aspirants. 

Colonel George Meade, the second son of General Meade, was 
born at Philadelphia, Pa., November 2, 1843. He attended, as a 
cadet, the United States Military Academy, West Point, N. Y., for 
two years, and subsequently entered the service as a private in the 
Eighth Pennsylvania (Militia) Infantry, September, 1862, in which 
capacity he served during the emergency caused by Lee's invasion 
of Maryland in 1862. In October, 1862, he received a commission 
as second lieutenant, Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, "Rush's Lan- 
cers," and served with that regiment in the Army of the Potomac, 
taking part in the Fredericksburg campaign, December, 1862, and in 
Stoneman's cavalry raid, April and May, 1863. In June, 1863, he 
was promoted to captain and aide-de-camp, United States Volunteers, 
on the staff of General Meade, commanding the Fifth Army Corps, 
Army of the Potomac, and served continuously with him as his aide 
until the death of General Meade on November 6, 1872, with the ex- 
ception of nine months from April to December, 1870, during which 
time he served with his regiment in Dakota Territory during an In- 
dian outbreak. He was commissioned first lieutenant United States 
Army in November, 1865, and captain United States Army in July, 
1866, and subsequently was brevetted major United States Army 
"for gallant and meritorious services at the battle of Gettysburg, Pa.," 
and lieutenant-colonel United States Army " for gallant and meri- 
torious services in the campaign ending in the surrender of the Army 
of Northern Virginia." On October 1, 1874, he resigned from the 



EDITOR'S PREFACE vii 

army, entered into business in Philadelphia, Pa., and so remained 
until his death, February 2, 1897. 

Colonel Meade, at the time of his death, had not prepared his 
account of the battle of Gettysburg beyond the morning of July the 
3d, and the narrative of the subsequent events of the battle has 
been written by the editor, who has also compiled the Gettysburg 
maps and added the foot-notes, the appendices, the official com- 
munications on pages 312, 313, vol. I, and pages 138, 139, 140, 193, 
196, 237, 273, vol. II. 

G. G. M. 

Philadelphia, Pa., April, 1913. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



Editor's Preface v 

Part I. Genealogy and Narrative to the Mexican 

War Letters, 1815-45 1 

Part II. Mexican War Letters, 1845-47 19 

Part III. Narrative from the End of the Mexican War 

Letters to the Civil War Letters, 1847-61 . 199 

Part IV. Civil War Letters, 1861-63 219 



LIST OF MAPS 



OPPOSITE 
PAGE 



Parts of Texas and Mexico covering the seat of the war in 

Mexico 25 

Sketch showing the position of the Army of Occupation oppo- 
site Matamoras 73 

Sketch showing the position of the Army of Occupation at the 

battle of Monterey .133 

Sketch of the seat of the war in Mexico showing the line pro- 
posed to be occupied by the American forces under Gen- 
eral Taylor 167 

Parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia covered by 
the operations of the Army of the Potomac in the Civil 
War, 1861 to 1865 219 

The Seven Days' Battles . . . . 279 



THE LIFE AND LETTERS 

OF 

GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

Volume I 



PART I 

GENEALOGY AND NARRATIVE TO THE MEXICAN 
WAR LETTERS 

1815-1845 

George Gordon Meade was born on the 31st of December, 1815, 
in the city of Cadiz, Spain, where his parents, who were citizens of 
the United States, were temporarily residing. 

His ancestors had been residents of the city of Philadelphia, in 
the Province of Pennsylvania, in colonial times. The first of whom 
there is any record was Robert Meade, the great-grandfather of 
George Gordon Meade. He was born in Ireland, and about the 
year 1732 we find him living in Philadelphia. He was a shipping 
and commission merchant, doing a considerable trade with the West 
Indies, principally with Barbadoes, where he is known to have had 
relations, and whence he had probably come to Philadelphia. The 
owner of real estate in and about the city, a prominent member of 
the small body of Roman Catholics who had settled there, assisting 
by his means and influence in building in the city the first chapel de- 
voted to his religion, which was the foundation of the present flour- 
ishing Church of Saint Joseph, he was generally regarded as a man 
of standing and importance among his compatriots. 

He died in Philadelphia in 1754, upon his return from a voyage 
to the island of Santa Cruz. His wife had died some years pre- 
viously. In his will he named three children, Garrett, George, and 
Catherine, to whom he bequeathed his property, appointing his 
brother-in-law, George Stritch, of Barbadoes, his executor. 

From this will it appears that, besides the property he owned in 
the Province of Pennsylvania, he had possessions in Barbadoes, and it 
is presumed that at the time of his death his children were living 
there. However that may be, it is certain that we find them a few 
years subsequently living in Philadelphia, the sons forming a firm 
under the style of "Garrett and George Meade," following the same 

1 



2 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

mercantile pursuits as their father had followed before them. It 
is evident, from what has been learned of the character and amount 
of their business, even in these early days, and from their habits 
and mode of life as well, that they had inherited an ample patri- 
mony. Carrying on an extensive and lucrative business, they soon 
took a prominent position among the merchants of the city. They 
were among the signers of the celebrated Non-Importation Resolu- 
tions of 1765, which was the first public declaration in Philadelphia 
of the growing dissatisfaction at the course of the mother country 
toward the colonies. 

Catherine married in Philadelphia, in 1761, Thomas Fitzsimons, 
a young Irishman who, by his talents, energy, and patriotism for 
his adopted country, rose to great eminence in the councils of the 
nation and of his State. 

George married, in 1768, Henrietta Constantia Worsam. She 
was a daughter of the Honorable Richard Worsam, of His Britannic 
Majesty's council in the island of Barbadoes, who with his family 
was sojourning in Philadelphia, where he died in 1766, leaving a 
widow and three daughters. 

About the year 1770, after the death, it is presumed, of Garrett, 
the elder brother, Thomas Fitzsimons became associated in busi- 
ness with George Meade, the firm being then known as that of 
"George Meade & Co." This connection lasted for several years, 
until the pressing public duties of Mr. Fitzsimons compelled him to 
retire. 

Born in Philadelphia in 1741, George Meade lived there all his 
life, and was throughout that time identified with the progress of 
the city. The most active period of his career was passed amidst 
events which are memorable in the history of his country. He early 
sympathized with the cause of the colonies, and, among other tokens 
of the substantial support he gave the government, we find his firm, 
in the trying year of 1780, subscribing the very large sum, for those 
days, of two thousand pounds toward organizing the Pennsylvania 
Bank, which was to supply food and clothing to the destitute army 
of General Washington. 

He was attentive to all his duties as a citizen, known for his liberal 
views, his benevolent and social qualities, his hospitable manners, 
and his thorough integrity and high sense of honor, which were so 
marked a feature in his character that he was known in mercantile 
circles as " Honest George Meade." 



GENEALOGY AND NARRATIVE 3 

He was prominent on all public and social occasions, though it is 
believed that the only public office he ever held was that of member 
of the common council in 1789-91. He held, however, many posi- 
tions of trust and confidence, and was one of the original promoters 
and vice-president of the institution of First Day (or Sunday) schools, 
the Rev. Dr. White, afterward Bishop White, being the president. 
A stanch Roman Catholic, and deeply interested in the welfare of 
his church, he was mainly instrumental in the building of Saint 
Mary's Church, of which he was one of the original trustees and a 
constant attendant, his wife being equally devoted to the Church 
of England. He and Thomas Fitzsimons were among the original 
members of the Society of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick, a 
social organization which existed in Philadelphia between the years 
1771 and 1798, organized by native-born Irishmen or their sons, 
on the rolls of which society were to be found the names of Gen- 
eral Washington, General Anthony Wayne, Commodore Barry, 
the Cadwaladers, Richard Peters, Robert Morris, General William 
Irvine, General Stephen Moylan, and many others of that day, 
distinguished in the history of their country. 

At the close of the Revolution, and upon the revival of commerce 
in America, the firm of George Meade & Co. took a high position 
among the substantial mercantile houses for which Philadelphia was 
noted. Its vessels were to be found in all foreign ports, and it be- 
came the agent for some of the largest houses in London. 

George Meade's children were ten in number, five sons and five 
daughters. Two of the latter married brothers, Thomas and John 
Ketland, sons of Thomas Ketland, of Birmingham, England, who 
were engaged in business in Philadelphia for some years after the 
Revolution. Neither left any descendants. Another of the daugh- 
ters married William Hustler, also an Englishman, whose descend- 
ants now live at Acklam Hall, Middlesborough-on-Tees, Yorkshire, 
England. The remaining children, with the exception of one son, 
died in early life and unmarried. 

This son was Richard Worsam Meade, the father of the subject 
of these memoirs. He was born in 1778 in Chester County, Penn- 
sylvania, where the family was temporarily residing, having, with 
many others, removed from Philadelphia upon the occupation of 
that place by the British army under General Howe. 

After a thorough education and careful preliminary training, Rich- 
ard Worsam Meade entered his father's counting-house, where he 



4 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

early displayed remarkable talent. Whilst so employed he made, 
in the interest of his father's house, several voyages to the West 
Indies. In 1795, when but seventeen years of age, he visited Europe, 
going out in charge of one of his father's vessels, and on this occa- 
sion made an extended tour through England and France, returning 
to America in 1796. He then again visited the West Indies, this 
time embarking in a business venture on his own account in the 
island of Santo Domingo. Although absent for only three years, 
he yet succeeded, at the early age of twenty-two, by his talents and 
industry, in achieving an independence, and, returning to Philadel- 
phia in 1800, in the following year married Margaret Coats Butler, 
a daughter of Anthony Butler, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and 
granddaughter of Colonel William Coats, a wealthy and prominent 
citizen of Philadelphia. 

Like his father and grandfather, he was a zealous Roman Catho- 
lic and very influential in the church, and also, like his father, he 
found his wife in the ranks of the Episcopalians. 

He had resumed business on his return to Philadelphia, at the 
same time taking charge of his father's affairs, which, unfortunately, 
had become seriously complicated. George Meade, the father, who 
had hitherto been extremely fortunate in his operations, and had 
amassed what in those days was considered a very handsome fort- 
une, had, with other moneyed men of Philadelphia, entered exten- 
sively into the purchase of large tracts of unimproved lands in va- 
rious parts of the country. He had confidently looked forward to 
a rapid increase in emigration and an early settlement of these lands, 
but the large outlay involved in their purchase, together with the 
failure of certain foreign houses in the crisis of 1796, had caused 
his financial embarrassment and failure. Every consideration was 
shown by his creditors to one who had held so high a position in the 
commercial world. Through the implicit faith in his integrity and 
confidence in his ability, he had been permitted to continue in sole 
management of his affairs. Everything of which he was possessed, 
upon which he could raise money, had been disposed of for the benefit 
of his creditors, and in this way he had been enabled to pay the 
greater part of his indebtedness. The breaking down of his health 
and his increasing age, however, finally compelled him, in 1801, to 
take advantage of the Bankrupt Act passed in that year, his son, 
Richard Worsam Meade, being appointed assignee. 

Whilst Richard Worsam Meade was acting in this capacity it 



GENEALOGY AND NARRATIVE 5 

became necessary for him, in order to attend to certain transactions 
growing out of his own affairs, to visit Spain, where he was detained 
much longer than he had anticipated. Seeing an excellent oppor- 
tunity of forming advantageous commercial connections in that 
country, in which a man of capital and energy could greatly benefit 
himself, and never satisfied unless actively employed, he established 
a house in the city of Cadiz, and in 1804 was joined there by his 
wife and their two children. 

During this absence in Spain his father's health completely gave 
way, and after a lingering illness he died in Philadelphia in 1808, 
and was buried in the family vault in the church-yard of Saint 
Mary's. 

The widow of George Meade, accompanied by her only surviving 
daughter, a few years after her husband's death visited England. 
She was a woman of education and high breeding, of strong religious 
convictions, a devoted wife and affectionate mother. The death of 
so many of her children, just as they were growing up, was a severe 
sorrow; but that and the loss of her husband's fortune, and his con- 
sequent broken health, were borne by her with exemplary Christian 
fortitude. The religious principles of her husband, and his active 
partisanship with the colonies in their early differences with Great 
Britain, were, it is surmised, the cause of opposition on the part of her 
father to their earlier marriage; but, although she would, in form- 
ing that connection, be compelled to live in America, widely sepa- 
rated from her own immediate family, she was resolute in her decision. 

Her letters from England during this visit, which was under- 
taken with the object of visiting her only surviving sister, whom she 
had not seen for very many years, are full of the warmest affection 
for the many friends she had made in America and of pleasant mem- 
ories of her life in that country. She looked forward with pleasure 
to her return to Philadelphia; but this, from many causes, was de- 
layed until increasing age and infirmity rendered it impossible, and 
she died near Edgebarton, Berkshire, England, about 1822, nearly 
eighty years old. 

Richard Worsam Meade remained in Spain for seventeen years, 
a stay far beyond his original expectations. Pie was, in 1806, ap- 
pointed naval agent of the United States for the port of Cadiz. 
His residence in the country covering the whole period of the Penin- 
sular War, he entered, during the invasion of Spain by the French, 
into numerous contracts with the Spanish Government involving 



6 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

large amounts of moneys and supplies, and in this way contributed 
materially to the support of the Spanish cause, Spain becoming 
largely indebted to him for funds and merchandise. Morally, too, 
his presence in Cadiz, at the critical period of the siege of that place, 
was recognized as valuable by the Supreme Junta organized for its 
defence, not only for the supplies that his house was known to be 
able to furnish, but for his cheering personal presence. In conse- 
quence of these services, the Cortes of Spain, assembled in Cadiz in 
1811 and 1812, offered to confer upon him the full citizenship of the 
country, but he publicly declined the offer, stating as his reason 
that, while he fully appreciated the honor, nothing could induce 
him to relinquish his position as an American citizen. 

The intimate relations existing between Mr. Meade and those in 
power, the valuable assistance he had rendered, his affability and 
knowledge of the world, conferred upon him a high social position 
among all classes of men, both native and foreign. Thus personally 
attractive and prominent, nothing more was needed but what he 
possessed in his wife, noted for her beauty and charming manners, 
to cause his house to be the resort of all that was most cultivated 
and refined in the society of Cadiz. His large wealth enabled him 
to surround himself with all that was luxurious; his gallery of paint- 
ings, collected at this period under the most favorable circumstances, 
was well known in after days in Philadelphia for the number of its 
choice works of art. 

His family, during the period over which we have passed, had 
been increased by six children, the youngest of whom was George 
Gordon Meade, born in the city of Cadiz on the 31st of December, 
1815. 

The return of Ferdinand VII to the throne of Spain so compli- 
cated and delayed all matters of business, especially such as related 
to contracts with the various local governments, that Mr. Meade 
was greatly embarrassed and delayed in obtaining a settlement of 
his claims. Both he and his wife were most anxious to return to 
America, where several of the older children were at school. She 
had already made one voyage to Philadelphia, in 1810, believing 
that her husband would be able shortly to follow, but, disappointed 
in this, she had returned to Cadiz in the following year, leaving 
three of the children behind her. 

To add to Mr. Meade's embarrassments at this time, he became 
involved in certain legal complications arising from administering the 



GENEALOGY AND NARRATIVE 7 

affairs of other persons. It appears that he had been appointed 
assignee for an insolvent agent of an English firm doing business in 
Cadiz. In the settlement of its affairs, he, by direction of the proper 
authority, the Tribunal of Commerce, took certain action which in- 
volved him in suits at law with some of the creditors, and through 
false representations he was arrested and confined in the prison at 
Santa Catalina, in Cadiz, where he remained for nearly two years, 
until finally released by a royal order, issued at the urgent demand 
of the United States minister to Spain. 

The inability of Spain to liquidate promptly her indebtedness to 
Mr. Meade, and the absolute necessity of his remaining in that coun- 
try to look after his extensive interests, rendered the time of his 
return to America so uncertain that he finally determined to send in 
advance to Philadelphia his wife and those of his children who had 
still remained with them. She sailed in 1817 and duly arrived in 
Philadelphia, and after her departure Mr. Meade removed to Madrid, 
where he continued his exertions for the payment of the moneys 
due him. 

In the meantime the treaty of 1819 between the United States 
and Spain, known as the Treaty of Florida, having been ratified by 
both governments, all just claims of American citizens then existing 
against Spain were, by the terms of that treaty, assumed by the 
United States in exchange for the cession of Florida by Spain. Thus 
released, Mr. Meade, in 1820, took his departure and joined his 
family in Philadelphia. But, after a few years' residence in that 
city, they removed to Washington, so that Mr. Meade, being at the 
seat of government, could there more advantageously prosecute his 
claim under the Treaty of Florida, for this claim, through legal tech- 
nicalities and other impediments, still remained unsettled. 

The family now consisted of ten children — seven daughters and 
three sons — two having been born since the return to the United 
States. Of these children, George Gordon Meade was the eighth 
child and second son. A few days after his birth he had been bap- 
tized by the curate of the parish of "Nuestra Senora del Rosario" 
at Cadiz, with the name of George, after his grandfather, his god- 
mother being Catherine Gordon Prendergast, a daughter of Mr. 
Jacob Gordon, a Scotchman, long resident with his family in Spain, 
between whom and the Meades the closest intimacy existed. It 
was owing to this intimacy that, as a token of the high esteem in 
which Mr. Meade held Mr. Gordon and all his family, the name of 



8 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Gordon was subsequently added to that which his infant son had 
received at baptism. 

When about eight years of age George Gordon Meade was placed 
at a well-known private school in Philadelphia, kept by William R. 
White, formerly professor of the ancient classics, at the University 
of Virginia, and Henry Hood, who graduated with distinction at 
Trinity College, Dublin. The school was regarded as an excellent 
one; the pupils were the children of the better class of citizens; and 
he remained there for about three years, receiving the usual educa- 
tion of boys of his age. He was considered an amiable boy, full of 
life, but rather disposed to avoid the rough-and-tumble frolics of 
youths of his age; quick at his lessons, and popular with both teachers 
and scholars. 

On the removal of the family to Washington, George was placed, 
in 1826, at a boarding-school at Mount Airy, a few miles from Phila- 
delphia, known as the American Classical and Military Lyceum. 
The principals of the school were M. Constant and A. L. Roumfort, 
the latter a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point. They 
were both men of marked ability and were assisted by a corps of 
excellent instructors. Among those constituting the board of ex- 
aminers were General Cadwalader, General Bernard, U. S. Engi- 
neers; Dr. Chapman, Joseph Hopkinson, Charles J. Ingersoll, 
Nicholas Biddle, Thomas Camac, and Richard Worsam Meade, the 
father of George. 

The institution was modelled upon West Point, the boys being 
instructed in the manual of arms and in company drill, and at cer- 
tain times they performed sentry duty. An "officer of the day" 
was regularly appointed, whose duty it was to report any breach of 
discipline, and the report was read aloud after breakfast to the 
assembled cadets. It was sought to instil a high sense of honor 
into the performance of these duties. 

During young Meade's stay at the school he was instructed in 
English, French, Latin, Greek, arithmetic, and algebra. He showed 
the greatest aptitude for the mathematical part of the course of study, 
but he was commended also by his instructors for general progress 
in his studies, and as being a youth of promise. He was very popu- 
lar among his school-mates, and the friendships formed at this early 
stage of his career lasted in many instances throughout life. The 
school was the favorite one for the sons of the principal families of 
Philadelphia, and many pupils came from distant parts of the coun- 



GENEALOGY AND NARRATIVE 9 

try, especially the South. There were there representatives of the 
Biddies, Willings, Ingersolls, Coxes, Hewsons, and Bories of Phila- 
delphia; of the Middletons, Andrewses, Herberts, Draytons, Duvals, 
and others, from various States. Some of these he was destined to 
meet again as fellow-students at West Point, and some, as Edmund 
Schriver, Henry DuPont, Percival Drayton, and James S. Biddle, 
in the army or the navy. 

Young Meade was still attending this school when intelligence of 
his father's serious illness was brought to him. Although hastening 
to Washington as rapidly as the means of travel in those days ad- 
mitted, he failed to arrive before his father's death, on the 25th of 
June, 1828. 

Mr. Meade's bitter and constant disappointment in the prosecu- 
tion of his claim under the Treaty of Florida had had much to do 
with the termination of his career at the comparatively early age of 
fifty. He had had to contemplate, year after year, the injustice 
through which the property which he as a private citizen of the 
United States had accumulated by honest industry, in a life of vol- 
untary exile, had gone into the coffers of the state, never to be re- 
covered, by means of a treaty of which his country had reaped the 
full benefit in the acquisition of territory. He had had to strive, 
year after year, unavailingly to obtain the justice never received, 
and at last, reduced in fortune to what may justly be called poverty, 
considering the affluence in which he had lived, broken in health 
and spirits, he succumbed, his death his silent protest against the 
injustice of his country! 

George's mother, thus suddenly deprived of her natural support, 
and without those means with which she had lived in the greatest 
luxury for many years, and with several young children, too, for 
whose support and education it became necessary to provide, was 
obliged, under the very altered circumstances under which she 
found herself, to retrench and conform her daily life to stern neces- 
sity. As one means of economizing she deemed it prudent to re- 
move George from the academy at Mount Airy at the end of the 
year already provided for. After accompanying his father's remains 
to Philadelphia for burial in the family vault at Saint Mary's Church, 
he resumed his place in the school. At the end of the academic 
year he returned to Washington and was for a short time a pupil 
of Salmon P. Chase, the distinguished secretary of the treasury 
under Mr. Lincoln's administration, who, at the time, was the head 



10 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

of a school for boys in that city. Upon the breaking up of this school, 
his mother placed him temporarily at the Mount Hope Institution, a 
boarding-school in Baltimore, Maryland, of which Professor Fred- 
erick Hall, of Middlebury College, Vermont, was principal. 

While Mrs. Meade was occupied with the affairs of George and 
those of the other children she did not neglect the prosecution of 
her husband's claim. Endowed with a fine mind, peculiarly adapted 
to business, and having thorough knowledge of her husband's affairs, 
she battled unflinchingly to secure justice from the government. 
With unabated ardor and untiring energy, she, for her children's 
sake, pressed her suit, but her efforts in that direction, as well as those 
of her children, after her decease, were wholly unsuccessful, and the 
claim still remains unpaid. 

It had been the desire of George's mother to give him a collegiate 
education, and, as his tastes leaned that way, to let him enter one 
of the pursuits of civil life, his pronounced preference being for the 
law. Her altered circumstances, however, would not permit this, 
and believing, from the aptitude which he had shown for mathe- 
matics and from his studious habits, that he would succeed at West 
Point, and it also having been the wish of his father that he should 
go there, she determined to apply for an appointment for him. 
Although she did not intend that he should continue in the profes- 
sion of arms beyond the period when it is considered honorable to 
resign, as having performed service equivalent to the education re- 
ceived at the academy, she proposed in this way to secure him a good 
education, hoping that, by the time he was graduated, her affairs 
would be brighter, and he would shortly be able to follow his own 
predilections. His eldest brother, Richard Worsam Meade, had al- 
ready, in the year 1826, been appointed a midshipman in the navy. 

In the meantime George remained at the school at Mount Hope, 
which he had entered December, 1829, to await the result of his 
mother's application for an appointment for him as cadet at the 
Military Academy. During this interval of waiting he seems to 
have pursued his studies with ardor. During a year he read, in 
Latin, Csesar's Commentaries and six of the orations of Cicero; in 
French, Telemaque and Charles XII of Sweden; in mathematics, 
Colburn's Arithmetic and Algebra, Walker's Geometry, Playfair's 
Euclid, and Trigonometry in Gummies' Surveying; Goodrich's 
History of the United States, Hart's Geography, and the greater 
part of Comstock's Chemistry and Natural Philosophy; which was 






GENEALOGY AND NARRATIVE 11 

doing very well for a lad of fifteen. The principal of the school pro- 
nounced him a boy of decided parts, of uncommon quickness of per- 
ception and readiness in acquiring knowledge; studious withal, and 
exceptionally correct in his deportment. This school, as well as the 
others, he left with the respect and good wishes of the teachers and 
the affection of his school-mates. 

His mother, having failed in her first application for an appoint- 
ment for her son to the Military Academy at West Point, was suc- 
cessful in her second, and in the summer of 1831 George was appointed 
by President Andrew Jackson to a cadetship, and entered the institu- 
tion in September of that year, at the age of fifteen years and eight 
months. He was quite small in stature at this time, slender and 
delicate in appearance, and there were friends of his family who 
thought that he would be unequal to the severe training of the 
academy. 

His course, during the four years of cadet life, though not brilliant, 
was creditable. He was much better prepared than the average of 
those who entered the academy, and he at once took a good stand 
in his class and maintained it. His class on entering numbered 
ninety-four members, of which only four were younger than himself. 
Arranged, as they are at first, alphabetically, he came about the 
middle of the class. Arranged in the order of merit, as they are 
subsequently, he, at the close of the first year, stood number twenty- 
one in the class. At the end of the second year, he stood number 
eighteen in his class, then numbering sixty-one. 

His bearing was dignified and manly, his manners affable, his 
opinions were of weight among the members of the corps, and he 
was universally liked and respected. 

He was naturally studious and found no difficulty in maintaining 
in his studies the stand which he had taken among his fellow-cadets, 
but he regarded the military exercises as such mechanical work that 
this part of the course was very distasteful to him, and his not taking 
a higher stand is attributed to his lack of interest in the monotonous 
guard-mounting, drill, and the endless minutise of routine. After 
his return from the usual furlough, at the end of the second year of 
the course, during the two years still remaining before graduation, 
his desire, which had never ceased, to be permitted to leave the 
academy and engage in civil pursuits, seemed to grow in strength. 
The ease with which he mastered his studies and kept up with his 
class rendered any great exertion on his part unnecessary, and often, 



12 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

in after life, he referred to this cause, and the dislike for the military 
duties, as having produced a certain amount of inattention, that told 
unfavorably upon his general standing before he was graduated 
from the institution. At the end of the third year he stood number 
seventeen in his class of sixty. At the end of the fourth and last 
year he stood number nineteen in his class, then reduced to fifty-six. 
He was graduated on the 1st of July, 1835, and assigned as brevet 
second lieutenant to the Third Regiment of Artillery. 

Among those of his class who in after years became prominent 
in military and civil life were George W. Morrell, Henry L. Kendrick, 
Montgomery Blair, Archibald Campbell, Herman Haupt, Henry M. 
Naglee, Joseph H. Eaton, Marsena R. Patrick, Thomas B. Arden, 
and Benjamin S. Roberts. 

It is customary to allow the class graduating from West Point a 
leave of absence for three months before the members are obliged 
to report for duty to the various posts assigned them. Lieutenant 
Meade, availing himself of this leave, sought and obtained, after a 
few days spent in Washington with his mother, employment as an 
assistant on the survey of the Long Island Railroad, and continued 
on the work until the end of September. His object in thus passing 
the time of his leave of absence was, first, to reimburse his mother 
for the expense of his outfit as an officer of the army, and, secondly, 
to make such acquaintances and connections as would open to him 
a future in civil life and enable him to resign from the army. The 
construction of railroads was at that period assuming importance, 
and seemed to offer great opportunities to a young man beginning 
life as a civil engineer. He had, in truth, gone to West Point some- 
what against his will, and, as has been mentioned, he had desired to 
leave the institution and take his chances in some walk of civil life. 
Moreover, he felt that the routine incident to service in the line of 
the army was unsuited to him, and it was also feared, and he was duly 
warned, that his constitution was not sufficiently strong to with- 
stand a tour of duty in the enervating climate of southern Florida, 
where his regiment was then stationed. As, however, the time ap- 
proached for him to make his decision, the responsibility of giving 
up a permanent position weighed so heavily upon him that he re- 
solved on trying an active campaign with his company, then at 
Tampa Bay. 

Fortunately for him, it occurred about this time that his brother- 
in-law, Commodore Alexander James Dallas, was placed in command 



GENEALOGY AND NARRATIVE 13 

of the West India squadron. By special permission of the war de- 
partment, Lieutenant Meade was authorized to accept the commo- 
dore's invitation to take passage with him and thus join his company 
at Tampa Bay. On the 8th of October they sailed from Hampton 
Roads in the flag-ship, the frigate Constellation, and after a somewhat 
stormy passage arrived in the harbor of Gustavia, in the island of 
Saint Bartholomew. After a few days delightfully spent there the 
Constellation sailed for Saint Thomas, and thence, touching at Santa 
Cruz, to La Guayra, on the Spanish main. From La Guayra they 
sailed for Porto Cabello, Curacoa, and finally cast anchor in the 
harbor of Havana. The stay at the different places at which the 
ship had touched had been most agreeably passed in a constant 
round of official courtesies, balls, dinners, and gayeties. 

From Havana they proceeded to Trinidad, where they remained 
for a short time, and January 6, 1836, found the Constellation back 
again at Havana, where this most interesting and enjoyable cruise 
came to an end, for it was there that Commodore Dallas heard of the 
massacre of Major Dade and his command. This was the beginning 
of the Florida War. 

On the day following the receipt of this intelligence Commodore 
Dallas sailed for Key West, and upon his arrival there detached the 
marines belonging to his own ship and those of the Saint Louis, which 
sailed in company with him, to reinforce the garrison at Fort Brooke, 
Tampa Bay, then supposed to be besieged. Lieutenant Meade ac- 
companied this force and so reached his station. 

Lieutenant Meade at once entered upon active duty, and in the 
subsequent operations under General Scott he accompanied the 
column under Colonel Lindsay. He was not, however, destined to 
remain in this country long. After a short tour of duty his health 
gave way, and he became unequal to the efficient discharge of his 
duties. The hardships of the service in a semi-tropical climate 
caused him to suffer from repeated attacks of fever, and these, work- 
ing upon a constitution not thoroughly established at that time, so 
debilitated him that, in the spring of 1836, he was pronounced, upon 
surgical examination, unfit to march with the army, which was about 
entering upon an active campaign against the Indians. A change of 
climate being advised, he was in April ordered to escort to the North 
Fork of the Canadian River, Arkansas, a party of Seminoles who 
had consented to emigrate. Embarking in a small, uncomfortable 
schooner at Tampa, they went to New Orleans; thence to Little 



14 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Rock, Arkansas; thence up the Arkansas River to Fort Smith; and 
thence to Fort Coffee, where they disembarked and journeyed over- 
land to their final destination. It was with great satisfaction that 
Lieutenant Meade at last safely turned over to Lieutenant Van 
Home, of the Third Infantry, the charge which he had brought so 
many hundred miles, which had not been made up of the most 
agreeable travelling companions. 

This duty ended, Lieutenant Meade, in obedience to orders, pro- 
ceeded to Washington and in person reported to the adjutant- 
general. 

He had been promoted in the meantime to a second lieutenancy, 
his commission bearing date December 31, 1835. His health still 
preventing his return to his regiment, he was assigned, in July, to 
duty in the ordnance department, and ordered to report to Water- 
town Arsenal, Massachusetts; but whilst on duty there, urged by 
his constant desire of retiring from the army, and influenced by the 
prospect held out to him of immediate employment in civil life, he, 
on the 26th of October, 1836, resigned his commission. 

In the following month he was appointed an assistant engineer 
in the construction of the Alabama, Florida, and Georgia Railroad, 
of which his brother-in-law, Major James D. Graham, was chief 
engineer, and reported for duty at Pensacola, Florida. He was en- 
gaged on this work until April, 1837, when the war department re- 
quiring a survey of the mouth of the Sabine River, the boundary-line 
between the United States and the republic of Texas, instructions 
were sent to Captain W. H. Chase, of the Corps of Engineers, who 
was stationed at Pensacola, to select some competent person and 
despatch him at once to make the survey. Captain Chase selected 
Mr. Meade, who sailed from Pensacola, Florida, in a small schooner, 
and after having successfully executed the required service, which 
was to ascertain the depth of the water on the bar at the mouth of 
the river, and the degree of navigability of the river for small sea- 
going vessels, reported the results, according to his instructions, direct 
to the secretary of war. 

Mr. Meade's next employment was as principal assistant-engineer 
with Captain Andrew Talcott, who had been selected by a special 
board of engineers to conduct a survey of the delta of the Mississippi, 
with the view of ascertaining the practicability of improving the 
navigation of the mouths of the river. Upon this important work a 
large force of men was employed, divided into two brigades, the 



GENEALOGY AND NARRATIVE 15 

second of which was under the charge of Mr. Meade. His employ- 
ment, beginning November, 1837, lasted through about six months' 
hard work in the field, in which operations were conducted with the 
greatest care and minuteness, when the party returned to the city 
of New York, where, during the winter of 1838-39, it finished com- 
piling and drawing the maps which were to accompany the report. 
The valuable services rendered by Mr. Meade toward this work 
have been referred to by a distinguished brother-officer in the fol- 
lowing terms: "My second recollection of him . . . was upon an 
elaborate survey and investigation at the mouths of the Mississippi 
River, in which the facts elicited by some original experiments of 
his, led me, many years after, to a series of investigations which de- 
veloped the law governing the formation of bars and shoals at the 
mouth of that river, from which most important consequences have 
followed for the improvement of navigation and the increase of 
commerce." 

This work closed in February, 1839, and Mr. Meade found him- 
self again in Washington, between which place, Philadelphia, and 
Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey (at that time a fashionable summer 
resort), he seemed to pass in a manner suggestive of some attraction 
to him in those places much more absorbing than their usual resources 
would suggest. He was able, however, to intermit this occupation 
sufficiently to accept, in January, 1840, the position of assistant, 
on the part of the United States, in the astronomical part of 
the survey for determining and marking the boundary-line between 
the United States and Texas, whose independence had just been 
recognized by the United States, and he joined on the Sabine 
River the commission convened under treaty stipulations for that 
purpose. 

After a great deal of unnecessary delay, caused by differences of 
opinion between the commissioners on the respective sides, which 
circumstance was all the more annoying to Mr. Meade, for he deemed 
the duties which solicited his attention in the North quite as im- 
portant as those to which he was contributing in the determination 
of the boundary-line between the United States and Texas, the work 
was at last satisfactorily completed, and he returned to Washington. 
There, in August, 1840, he was appointed by the secretary of war 
civil assistant on the survey of the northeastern boundary-line be- 
tween the United States and the British Provinces, which survey was 
then being organized by Major James D. Graham, of the Corps of 



16 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Topographical Engineers, the commissioner on the part of the United 
States. 

During these years Mrs. Meade continued to reside in Washing- 
ton, and in the intervals of this constant change of duty her son 
had made her house his home. Intelligent, well-educated, vivacious, 
and fond of society, he was naturally welcomed in all his comings and 
goings by a large circle of friends. Among those at whose houses he 
was a constant visitor was the Honorable John Sergeant, a distin- 
guished member of Congress, whose sojourns at the capital were 
brightened by the presence of his wife and daughters. Mr. Sergeant 
worthily represented a long line of ancestry, eminent in ability and 
learning. A profound constitutional lawyer and a leader at the bar 
in his native city, Philadelphia, often occupying local offices there 
of trust and honor; representative in the State assembly, president 
of the State constitutional convention, the almost continuously 
honored choice of Philadelphia, from the Fourteenth to the Twenty- 
seventh Congresses inclusive; the representative of the general gov- 
ernment on several important foreign missions, the nominee, in 
1832, of his party for Vice-President, when Henry Clay was nomi- 
nated for President, Mr. Sergeant was now occupying what was des- 
tined to be his last public position in a long and brilliant national 
career. His private life was in keeping with his public one. He 
was a sincere Christian and charitable to a fault. Broad in his 
views, hospitable, of engaging manners and great conversational 
powers, his home, bountifully endowed through the reward of his 
professional labors, was the centre of all that was refined and 
distinguished. 

It was in this atmosphere, and amid these associations, that 
young Mr. Meade was destined to seek and win his future bride. 
Between himself and Margaretta, the eldest child of Mr. Sergeant, 
early sprang up an attachment that was to prove as devoted as they 
were mutually worthy to inspire it. Margaretta, the constant com- 
panion of her venerable father, had received her education under his 
immediate eye, and had been reared in the refined and brilliant 
circle that surrounded him. Notwithstanding, however, the depth, 
and from many points of view, the reasonableness of this attach- 
ment between Mr. Meade and Miss Sergeant, the uncertainty at- 
tending his permanent occupation, together with the still unsettled 
condition of his mother's affairs, caused the proposed marriage to be 
considered with grave deliberation. But Mr. Sergeant's opportuni- 



GENEALOGY AND NARRATIVE 17 

ties had been so great for obtaining a knowledge of the character of 
his daughter's suitor, and he had become so impressed with his worth, 
that his deliberations ended with a cordial consent, and he often 
afterward predicted for the young man a useful and brilliant career. 

On the 31st of December, 1840, the marriage of Mr. Meade and 
Miss Sergeant took place in Philadelphia, at the residence of the 
bride's parents, amid a brilliant assembly of the friends of both 
families. He retained his position on the survey of the northeastern 
boundary-line, his winters, when field work was closed for the season, 
being spent in Washington, where the office of the commission was 
established. 

Notwithstanding Mr. Meade's efforts to secure permanent civil 
employment, he found that, without influence, he was unable to 
obtain it, except on public works, where its tenure was upon the 
good-will, or perhaps caprice, of the officers in charge. In addition 
to this, Congress, in a spirit of retrenchment, was proposing to utilize 
on these works the services of the Corps of Topographical Engineers 
instead of those of civilians. Feeling now, with increased responsi- 
bilities, that his position was very insecure, he determined after due 
deliberation, and consultation with friends, to re-enter the army, an 
opportunity now offering itself in an appointment to one of the 
scientific corps. Through the influence of the Honorable Henry A. 
Wise, the brilliant and influential member of Congress from Vir- 
ginia, who had also married a daughter of Mr. Sergeant, Mr. Meade 
was, on the 19th of May, 1842, appointed by President Tyler a 
second lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers, and was 
continued as an assistant on the survey of the northeastern boundary- 
line, upon which duty he remained until November, 1843, when, 
being relieved, he was ordered to report to Major Hartman Bache, 
of the Topographical Engineers, on duty in the construction of 
light-houses and in surveys on Delaware Bay, head-quarters in 
Philadelphia. 

This station at Philadelphia was in all respects a most agreeable 
one to Lieutenant Meade. His duties were of the most congenial 
kind, and made doubly agreeable by the pleasant relations existing 
between him and his superior officer. He was for the first time able, 
through some probable permanence of abode, to have his own house, 
and in his frequent absences on duty from the city he had at least 
the satisfaction of knowing that he left wife and children sur- 
rounded by kind relations and friends. 



18 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

He had been for a little over a year and a half in the enjoyment 
of all these advantages, when, on the 12th of August, 1845, he unex- 
pectedly received orders to repair at once to Aransas Bay, Texas, 
and report for duty with the military force assembling there. 

The complications between the United States and Mexico, grow- 
ing out of the gaining of her independence by Texas, and her sub- 
sequent annexation to the United States, had at this time assumed 
so serious an aspect that the force which, as a precautionary measure, 
had been collected at Fort Jessup, Louisiana, under the command 
of Brigadier-General Zachary Taylor, and known as the army of 
observation, was ordered to proceed to some point on the coast of 
Texas, convenient, in case of necessity, for advancing to the western 
frontier of that State. General Taylor had selected Aransas Bay as 
that point, and had proceeded there early in July, 1845. 

It was with no light heart, but with the promptness of a true 
soldier, that Lieutenant Meade bade farewell to his quiet home and 
set forth on the second day after receiving his orders, leaving his 
wife and three little children, one of whom was so ill that he never 
expected to see him again. But in this trying moment he was nobly 
supported by his young wife, who thus early in their career evinced 
that unselfish devotion to his interests and welfare which, through- 
out life, was to lighten the burden of his ever-increasing responsibili- 
ties and support him in the faithful discharge of his important trusts. 

Lieutenant Meade was at this time in the thirtieth year of his 
age. His constitution, greatly strengthened and improved within 
the ten years which had elapsed since his experience in Florida, was 
now, comparatively speaking, robust. During that time he had been 
constantly and actively employed in important service, in which 
he had always gained the esteem of those with whom he had come 
in contact. How he bore himself in this new field .of activity is 
clearly seen in the following series of letters, throwing light on his 
innermost thought and life, written to his devoted wife, and doing 
their part in attesting what manner of man he was. 



PART II 

MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 

1845-1847 

To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Washington City, D. C, August 15, 1845. 

I trust you have not placed any fond hopes on seeing me come 
back from this place. I found on my arrival here this morning that 
there was nothing to be done but to proceed to the destination as- 
signed me. Since leaving Philadelphia the news is more belligerent 
from Mexico, and though I have not the slightest fear of any hostili- 
ties on the part of the Mexicans, yet the existence of such reports 
renders it a point of honor for me to go. From all I can hear (for 
besides seeing many people who pretend to know, I have met one 
gentleman who resides at the very place I am going to,) all agree 
in pronouncing it as healthy a country as any in the world, and if 
I can only escape New Orleans, that there will be but little danger 
afterwards. Of course I shall take every precaution at New Orleans, 
and leave the city as soon as I possibly can, and I really am in hopes 
that I shall get safely there and in a short time return to our dear 
home. 

In the meantime keep up your spirits and take care of your 
health and that of the children. No one can tell how my heart was 
rent at parting with you; but I believe it is for the best that we 
should be parted, if I am to go, for the terrible agony I endured at 
the very sight of you and my dear children, it would be impossible 
to describe. However, there is no use in fretting over what cannot 
be helped, and there only remains for us to pray God to protect us 
and bring us again together in his good pleasure. 

I suppose you have to-day seen Mr. Pemberton, 1 who was kind 
enough to accompany me to New Castle. I found his society most 
agreeable, as it prevented me from giving way to my pent-up and 
lacerated feelings, and I felt deeply grateful to him for his kindness. 

1 Israel Pemberton, of Philadelphia, associated, as civil engineer, with Lieu- 
tenant Meade, in the survey of the delta of the Mississippi in 1838-39. 

19 



20 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

We arrived at Baltimore about twelve o'clock, and I went up to the 
Exchange Hotel and got a bed, and had quite a comfortable sleep 
till breakfast this morning, at half past seven, after which I got into 
the cars and came down here. After seeing Salvadora, 1 and after- 
wards Margaret, 1 1 went to the Bureau and reported myself to Colonel 
Abert. He was very civil to me, gave me some additional articles 
to take with me, and impressed upon me the necessity of staying as 
short a time as possible in New Orleans. I then saw Captain Swift, 
and had some conversation with him, and learned from him that 
there was no absolute necessity of very great hurry. He said I might 
go down the river if I wanted to, and gave it as his opinion that 
there would be no trouble there (that is, in Texas), and that the 
Colonel would recall me as soon as it could possibly be done, as he 
wanted now officers for other duty. All this is of course consoling, 
and we must hope for the best. After this I called on the Secretary 
of War to offer to take despatches. He also was very polite, but had 
nothing to send by me, although I met in his office a Colonel Rogers 
from Corpus Christi, Texas, which, if you look on your map, you 
will find is just below the Aransas Pass. He it was who told me the 
place was most healthy and delightful as a residence, and gave me 
some letters to take to his sons there. Upon the whole, I feel better 
after coming here, and now I shall start with a lighter heart. 

Keep up your spirits; all will yet be well, and it may not be long 
before I will be with you again. 

I think now of going by the river route, going from here to 
Wheeling, and thence to Cincinnati, and from thence to New Or- 
leans, in which case I shall leave here to-morrow morning early, at 
six o'clock. Write to me at New Orleans, and tell me all about the 
dear children and mother and all your family. Do not write despond- 
ingly, but give me the aid of your cheerfulness to assist me in my 
trials, and may the Almighty ruler of all things, bless and protect 
you and the dear children, and in his own time restore me to you. 

Cincinnati, August 21, 1845. 
I have progressed far on my long journey, having thus arrived 
here last night too late to do anything but go to bed. I cannot say 
that I am any more reconciled to our parting than the first moment 
I was made aware we had to part. 

I will give you now a little account of my journey. I left Wash- 
1 Sisters of Lieutenant Meade. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 21 

ington on Friday morning, having received all the kindness and atten- 
tion possible from Salvadora and her husband. In the cars from 
Washington I met Major Craig, 1 on his return to Philadelphia, who 
said he would call and tell you he had met me. At the Relay House 
I parted with him and got into the cars for Cumberland, where I met 
Mr. Randall, 2 who married Miss Wirt, and was in Congress with 
your father the last session he served. Mr. Randall being a very 
intelligent gentleman, we sat together and conversed during the whole 
day, till evening, when we arrived at Cumberland, where he remained. 
I found his society most agreeable. At Cumberland I took the mail 
stage for Wheeling, and found myself with but one passenger, a 
young merchant, from Huntsville, Alabama, returning from Phila- 
delphia, where he had been purchasing goods. On account of his 
admiration of Philadelphia, he being a sterling Whig, and withal a 
very intelligent man, I took to him. We arrived at Wheeling at 
eleven o'clock Sunday night, and finding the water very low, I de- 
termined to go overland to this place and depend upon taking the 
river here. I left Wheeling at six o'clock Monday morning, and 
reached Zanesville late that night, started early the next morning, 
travelled all night, and got here about ten last night. I took a bath, 
went to bed, and had sweet dreams of you and my children. I have 
found here many acquaintances, mostly of the army; one, Captain 
Irwin, an old friend, who has been running round the town with me 
this morning, assisting me in making purchases of articles necessary 
for my outfit, such as horse equipments, bed and bedding, etc. I 
very much fear this will be a most ruinously expensive business, and 
I wish to heaven I was out of it; but it was absolutely necessary to 
procure these things, and I could get them cheaper here than in New 
Orleans, besides my intention of spending no longer time than abso- 
lutely necessary in that city. I shall leave here to-night or early 
to-morrow morning for down the river, and may probably spend a 
day at Louisville, where I understand that Elizabeth 3 and her chil- 
dren are staying. I also expect to overtake there a young officer 
of our corps, on his way to Texas, whom I find by the books at the 
hotels is just one day ahead of me. I shall then proceed immediately 
to New Orleans, and if there is not a vessel going soon to this place, 

1 Major Henry K. Craig, of the Ordnance Department. 

2 Hon. Alexander Randall, Representative from Maryland in the Twenty- 
seventh Congress. 

3 Elizabeth Ingraham, wife of Alfred Ingraham, and sister of Lieutenant 
Meade. 



22 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

I will go to some place in the neighborhood of New Orleans known 
to be healthy, and wait there till one should be ready. At New 
Orleans I expect to see your dear handwriting, as I am some days 
behind the mail. I cannot tell you how anxious I am to hear from 
you, of my dear mother, who I trust is more reconciled to my de- 
parture, and of my dear boys, who, alas, are too young to feel it. 
Give my very best love to dear mother, and tell her I will soon write 
to her, maybe I will do it before I leave here, but I am in such a whirl 
of excitement, that I can hardly keep still, and writing makes me 
most melancholy. 

I want you to subscribe for me to the Tri-weekly National Intelli- 
gencer and the Weekly Herald, and have them sent to New Orleans, 
to the care of Colonel Hunt, Quartermaster U. S. Army. I also 
want you to get off my bookcase the "Maps of the Stars," published 
by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. 

Louisville, Ky., August 23, 1845. 

I arrived here early this morning, and should have proceeded 
immediately on, as there were boats going on; but knowing that 
they were subject to a detention of two or three hours in going through 
the canal, which is here cut round the falls or ripples of the Ohio, I 
determined to come on shore and see Elizabeth and her girls, whom 
I found at a lovely spot on the banks of the river, about three miles 
below here. She looked and said she was very well, all the children 
were so, and she was very much gratified at my visit. After staying 
with her as long as I thought myself justified in doing, I returned, 
and took a hack with my luggage and drove to the end of the canal, 
three miles from here, and arrived just in time to see the boat glid- 
ing gracefully down stream. I had nothing to do but return to the 
excellent house where I am now stopping, and wait for the next boat, 
which will probably leave to-morrow morning. I was exceedingly 
put out and disappointed. 

I am well thus far, and had an agreeable passage of about twenty- 
four hours from Cincinnati here. After I start from here I shall 
make every effort to push on. We have dates from New Orleans to 
the 14th inst.; it was then perfectly healthy. God grant it may 
continue so. Nothing new in Mexican affairs, which I still think is 
a mere bubble to induce the offer of mediation from England or 
France, and thus give them (Mexico) a chance to creep out of an 
awkward position. 






MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 23 

New Orleans, Sept. 4, 1845. 

I arrived here to-day about 2 p. M., very well in health and much 
improved in spirits. The city is as yet perfectly healthy, and I find 
here a vessel loading for Aransas Bay, which will probably leave 
to-morrow afternoon; I have therefore a chance of getting out of this 
pestilential hole unharmed. 

I had a tedious, though, on the whole, a pleasant journey here. I 
wrote you from Louisville, telling you of my missing a steamboat. 
The next day I got one, and had very good luck till we got to the 
mouth of the Ohio; there I took the first boat that passed down, 
and she proved to be one very heavily laden from St. Louis, with a 
most prudent captain, who lay by every night for fear of snags and 
getting aground. At first I complained of this as wasting so much 
time, but in the end I was reconciled, for almost every day we passed 
some less prudently managed boat, some aground on a bar, others 
snagged and in a sinking condition, while we met with no accident, 
but once grounding when opposite Natchez, when we had supposed 
ourselves beyond all danger and were running at night. Luckily, it 
was so near Natchez we were enabled to get the ferryboat there, that 
lightered us, and we continued our journey, after a detention of 
twelve hours, and reached here safely, as I said before, about 2 p. m. 
The vessel I go in to-morrow is an excellent one, which has been 
running as a packet between this and Vera Cruz, and is now in the 
employ of the Government. The voyage is about three days, and 
every one represents the situation there as healthy and desirable, so 
you must cheer up yourself and also dear mother. 

There are a great many rumors of war and hostile operations on 
the part of the Mexicans, but none that are authentic, or to be relied 
on. I cannot believe as yet the Mexicans are so blind to their true 
interests as madly to rush into a war with us, especially after they 
find, as they have done by this time, that we are expecting and pre- 
paring for such a contingency. General Taylor 1 will in a few weeks 
have with him a force amounting to between four and five thousand 
men, and any number of militia in the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, 
Arkansas, and others, only waiting for the call to rush to his assist- 
ance. When the Mexicans ascertain this, and that our Government 
is in earnest, they will deliberate a good deal before they commence 
active operations, and it appears to be well understood we are to 

1 Brigadier-General Zachary Taylor, commander of the American "Army of 
Occupation," afterward President of the United States. 



24 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

wait for them to commence. All this I mention to make your mind 
easy as to my safety. I fear nothing but disease, and I shall have 
excellent medical attendance, and every care in case I am sick. 

New Orleans, September 5, 1845. 

The vessel did not sail to-day, as was expected, owing to its rain- 
ing, which prevented her being loaded, as she is carrying over a 
quantity of hay, which would have been damaged. She only waits 
for a few clear hours to take this hay on board, and she will be off, 
and as the night is fair (now 9 P. M.), I expect this will be done 
to-morrow, and we will sail during the course of the day. I paid 
her a visit this morning, and found her a staunch, well-built vessel, 
what is called an hermaphrodite brig, one of the kind best suited to 
the navigation of the Gulf, and as she was built for a packet schooner 
to Vera Cruz, she has excellent accommodation for the cabin. I 
esteem myself exceedingly fortunate in going in her, as they have 
been sending the troops in river steamboats, and vessels of a kind 
entirely unsuited to the weather to be expected, and it is very lucky 
no accident has yet happened. 

I shall have several fellow-passengers to-morrow, one a surgeon in 
the army, and another a young officer joining his regiment; there are 
also some citizens going over. 

Lieutenant Ringgold, who left a few days before me with de- 
spatches for General Taylor, left this morning on his return to 
Washington, where he will be in a week. Happy fellow, I felt very 
badly as I saw him going off in the finest spirits! Well, well, who 
knows? it may not be long before I am in a similar position, though 
I fear at present view, and from all I can learn, that it will be a pro- 
longed affair, and probably occupy all winter and spring; however, 
let us hope for the best. 

New Orleans, September 6, 1845. 

We have had to-day fine, clear weather, the vessel is loaded, and 
we shall be off in an hour or two (5 p. m.). 

I wrote you a long letter last night; this is my last from here, 
and the next will be from Aransas Bay, and will probably not reach 
you for ten or twelve days after this. I feel much better to-day than 
yesterday, when I was fatigued and heated. I believe I am quite 
well, and look with great gratification upon getting out of this pesti- 
lential hole, without disease, or there being any in it. 



PAETS or 

TEXAS&MEXICO 




^ — \Z£pf ~*- -,. ._ 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 25 

Captain Cram, my senior officer, arrived to-day, and accompanies 
us to Aransas Bay; also Captain Sanders, 1 who married Miss Wilkins, 
and who is an old friend of mine. 

Depot St. Joseph's Island, Texas, September 14, 1845. 

I arrived here two days ago, well, hearty, and in good spirits, 
having made the most delightful voyage from New Orleans I ever 
made; not at all sea-sick, pleasant company, cool breezes, and good 
fare. God be thanked! 

If you look on your map you will find the Aransas Pass laid down; 
I am there, just inside the open sea, on the point of the island to the 
north. This point is a large depot of provisions, having a bar to 
enter it, on which is only eight feet of water, consequently all large 
vessels anchor outside, are lightered by two steamers, and their con- 
tents forwarded to Corpus Christi (where is the main army) by two 
smaller steamers of light draft. I have been for the last two days 
getting my things ashore here, very much occupied, and am now 
going to join the army at Corpus Christi, twenty-five miles from 
here, on the right bank of the river Nueces, immediately at its mouth; 
so you can follow me. 

Captain Cram, my senior officer, goes down with me, also Mr. 
Wood, the subaltern of our corps, below me. I presume after we 
get fixed at Corpus Christi, where we shall be to-night, I shall know 
something of my movements. I never was better in my life, and I 
can see at a glance that this point and Corpus Christi, of similar 
formation, are as delightful and as healthy spots as any in the world. 
It is a pure sand formation, surrounded by salt water and always 
having a fresh breeze, without mosquitoes, ticks, or any of the an- 
noying vermin of the South. Nothing but the hot sun, from which, 
if you are shaded, you are cooler than at any place in the North. 

A terrible disaster occurred yesterday, which I only mention to 
guard you against false rumors. The steamer Dayton, chartered by 
the Government in the commencement of the affair, the only one 
that could be procured, yesterday, on her return from Corpus Christi, 
where she had been discharged, owing to the arrival here of staunch 
and good boats to take her place, exploded, killing two officers, 
Lieutenant Higgins and Lieutenant Berry, of the Fourth Infantry, 
and some eight or ten men, and badly wounding some three or four 
other officers, none of whom are dangerously hurt, but badly bruised. 
1 John Sanders, of Philadelphia. 



26 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

I was not on her, and the boat I am going on has since been examined 
and pronounced to be in perfect order; so be easy on my account. 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, September 18, 1845. 

I wrote you some days ago, from the Depot at St. Joseph's Island, 
about twenty-five miles from here, where we were landed from the 
vessel that brought us from New Orleans. The same day we came 
up here in a steamboat, and arrived at night. The next morning we 
came on shore, and reported ourselves to General Taylor, whom I 
found to be a plain, sensible old gentleman, who laughs very much 
at the excitement in the Northern States on account of his position, 
and thinks there is not the remotest probability of there being any 
war. He is said to be very tired of this country, and the duty as- 
signed to him, and it is supposed will return on the arrival of Gen- 
eral Worth, 1 who is expected daily, and who will then assume the 
command. 

General Taylor, so says rumor, is a staunch Whig, and opposed 
in toto to the Texas annexation, and therefore does not enter heart 
and soul into his present duties; all this, however, is mere rumor 
and is entre nous. 

Since my arrival we have been fixing ourselves in camp, and pre- 
paring for orders, which we have received to-day. We are to start 
to-morrow early, with an escort of thirty soldiers and two officers, 
to make a survey of the river Nueces, which empties itself at this 
point, from the village of San Patricio, down here, a distance of thirty 
miles. We expect to be absent about two weeks, and all going in 
boats. Should the weather be fine I have no doubt we shall have a 
pleasant expedition, but at present it looks very threatening, and we 
have had showers and squalls for two days past, doubtless the com- 
mencement of the equinoctial gale. 

I find matters pretty much as I expected here; Colonel Abert's 2 
grand plan to carry out which, I was added to the number of officers 
asked for, is an entire failure, as General Taylor has his own views 
and plans, and does not intend to trouble himself with those of 
other people, so that there was no use in my coming, and I might 
have been of more service at the Tortugas. 3 But now that I am here 

1 Brigadier-General William J. Worth, U. S. A. 

2 Colonel John J. Abert, of the Topographical Engineers. 

3 Survey of the Dry Tortugas Islands off the south coast of Florida, in charge 
of Major Hartman Bache, of the Topographical Engineers, brother-in-law of 
Lieutenant Meade. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 27 

I want to see it out. I find the climate thus far delicious, the sun 
hot in the middle of the day, but when shaded from it, a fine cool 
breeze always felt blowing. 

The command, consisting of nearly three thousand men, has a 
very small sick report, and nearly all of them are cases of dysentery, 
attributable to the water we drink here. The camp is situated on a 
beautiful shell beach, having a fine surf on it, where we can bathe, 
and an extensive plain on which the troops are encamped. The only 
drawbacks are the wood and water. The only wood is what is here 
called the Mesquite, which is a scrubby little tree, more resembling 
a brush than a tree, and which is so crooked, rough, and dwarfish, 
that it can be used for no other purpose than for fire wood, and is 
very poor for that. The water is obtained by digging holes in the 
beach, and letting the water percolate into them, when it becomes 
fresh enough to drink. Of course the supply, both of wood and water, 
is limited, and the latter so brackish as to induce its moderate use. 

Major William Graham, 1 who is here, has been as kind as a 
brother to me, and took me into his tent and treated me with all 
possible attention until I was fixed in my own quarters. Captain 
Alden, who married Miss Coleman, is also here; so is Captain Wag- 
gaman, Tyler's nephew, who dined with us on that celebrated day; 
so also is Captain McCall, 2 who, by-the-bye, is looking very badly, 
as he had been very sick before he came here, but is recruiting rapidly 
here; all my acquaintances from Houston are coming down here, 
and, in fact, I am among all my old associates. 

Headquarters Army of Occupation, 

Corpus Christi, Texas, October 9, 1845. 

1 believe I have never yet given you any account of our expedi- 
tion up the river Nueces, from which we have returned about a 
week, and on which we were absent some thirteen days. I do not 
know that it will interest you, but as this place is, independent of 
army movements, exceedingly dull, you must prepare yourself to 
hear a great deal about things which, doubtless, you consider very 
trifling and insignificant; but to my story: 

General Taylor, being desirous of obtaining information concern- 
ing the country lying adjacent to the river Nueces, and through 

brother of Major James D. Graham, killed in battle September, 1847, in 
Mexico. 

2 George A. McCall — afterward commanded the division known as the "Penn- 
sylvania Reserve" of the Army of the Potomac in the Civil War. 



28 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

which his army will have to operate, in the event of an advanced 
movement taking place, ordered a reconnoissance to be made by 
Captain Cram and party, to be escorted by thirty infantry soldiers, 
commanded by two officers. We left here early one morning in five 
Mackinaw boats, and proceeded up a large bay into which the Nueces 
flows, and went to the head in search of the river. Being totally 
ignorant of the country, we missed the mouth of the river, and the 
first night out was spent by some of the gentlemen in their boats; 
but I was lucky in finding a good place ashore to camp, where, being 
joined by one of the boats loaded with provisions, I pitched my tent, 
had a good supper that night, and breakfast next morning. The 
next day we made another ineffectual attempt to ascend the river, 
and got into a bayou, which led us into lakes, and then into other 
bayous, till, finally, we reached a lake having so little water that we 
could advance no farther. Under these circumstances we encamped 
for the night, and the next morning early, I was sent out with four 
men to explore the country around, and ascertain if the river was in 
our neighborhood. A few miles traveling brought me to the stream 
which debouched into the bay, about its middle, instead of its head. 
I returned, set the party on the right road, which obliged us to re- 
trace our steps, and the third day out we encamped on the banks of 
the Nueces. After getting into the river we had comparatively easy 
work. We ordinarily arose at daybreak, had breakfast, took down 
our tents, loaded the boats, and by seven o'clock were en route. 
Then, about one o'clock, we stopped and had a little lunch and at 
4 p. m. we stopped for the day, unloaded, and had the camp pitched, 
and supper ready by sundown. During the day, and after we halted, 
some of the men would take their muskets and go along the banks, 
and were always sure to bring us in some wild turkeys, very delicious 
birds. We saw plenty of deer, but were not fortunate enough to 
get any venison. Indeed, you would be surprised to learn that the 
country is very difficult to travel through. It is nearly all prairie, 
but having a most luxurious growth of long grass, as high as a man 
almost, which breaks you down in marching through it, so that 
starting a deer or other animal it is impossible to overtake him unless 
you are mounted on a horse. The roads, too, through the country, 
are rendered impassable by a heavy rain; the soil is so soft they be- 
come boggy after a few hours, so that traveling, and particularly 
marching large bodies of men, will be a very difficult operation. It 
took us some four days to ascend the river, when we arrived at what 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 29 

was once the town of San Patricio, now entirely in ruins and deserted. 
This place was settled by almost three hundred Irish emigrants, 
under the protection of the Mexican Government; but, during the 
war that devastated this country, it was a prey to both parties, and 
now there is not one stone standing on another, and no traces of a 
settlement except some cultivated ground. We stayed at this place 
two days, and arrived three days afterwards here, at the main camp, 
in fine health, all of us improved by the trip, except Mr. Wood, our 
young Topographical Sub, who was obliged to return the second day 
of the expedition, from illness, but soon recovered here. You may 
imagine how healthy a place this is, when we have, collected here, 
nearly four thousand men who have come from all parts of the coun- 
try, and many from the upper Lakes, nearly all passing through 
New Orleans, and many detained there, and yet until this time there 
have been only two or three deaths from disease, though there have 
been several from accidents, such as blowing up of steamboats, 
strokes of lightning, drowning, etc. Nearly all have been affected 
by the diarrhoea consequent upon the change of life and water, but 
these cases have all been mild, though many of the men are drunken, 
dissipated fellows who, you would suppose, would be carried off by 
any disease. We have here a fine breeze blowing constantly, which 
tempers the ardor of the sun; but at this season the sun begins to 
lose its powerful effect, and the middle of the day is the most agree- 
able part of it. 

Corpus Christi, October 10, 1845. 
I find my position here most agreeable. Already have we per- 
formed one most important duty, which, as I have told you, was 
extremely pleasant; but, since our return, I have been much occupied 
in making drawings, which, as it has been done under the eyes of all 
the army, has enabled us to show them that we are not idlers and 
mere civilians, but that, in anticipation of war, we are the first em- 
ployed, and our duties of a most important nature. We are now 
told to hold ourselves in readiness to leave at a moment's notice, 
and make a reconnoissance of the Brazos de Santiago, an arm of the 
sea, which juts in near the mouth of the Rio Grande, and approaches 
within twenty miles of the Mexican town of Matamoras, where they 
have troops and supplies. This, therefore, is not only an important, 
but an honorable duty, inasmuch as the Mexicans may endeavor to 
interrupt our labors. We will however go in a steamer from here, 



30 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

accompanied by one hundred men from the artillery and infantry, 
and take a field-piece with us to keep off Mexicans. For this duty 
every one is applying, and we are considered most fortunate in being 
on it. I have not the remotest idea the Mexicans will dare to oppose 
us; for, in the first place, all accounts agree in representing their 
force at Matamoras as contemptible, and again, they know that any 
act of that kind would be an open act of hostility, and would inevita- 
bly bring upon them most severe retribution from our large force and 
an open invasion of their country; in fact, they know we would like 
no better chance than some such excuse to pounce upon them, and 
they are too wide-awake and too conscious of their weakness to give 
us any such argument on our side. Do not apprehend any trouble 
therefore. Our duty is peaceful, will be peacefully accomplished, 
and there is no probability of any hostilities on either side. All the 
troops have now arrived that are coming here. Captain Ramsay 1 
came yesterday. He is looking very well, but he says he left Mrs. 
Ramsay at Frankford, quite sick, and all alone. I wish you could 
get out to see her, as you might be of some service to her. He tells 
me Major Craig is going to live out there, so that you will lose your 
delightful neighbor. Talking of ladies, puts me in mind we have 
one in the camp here, the wife of a surgeon. Everybody unites in 
condemning her coming here, as she is only in the way, and has to 
live most uncomfortably. She is in a tent, living in the roughest man- 
ner, and has not even, I think, a female attendant. I have seen her 
once or twice. She appears contented and is, comparatively speak- 
ing, comfortably fixed; but she is entirely out of place. 

October 11, 1845. 
The mail will leave early to-morrow morning, by a steamer for 
New Orleans; so that in twelve days you will receive this. How 
much I wish I could accompany it. What joy to be once more at 
the northeast corner of Schuylkill Seventh and Spruce Streets; but, 
alas, it is useless to be speculating on impossibilities! Here I am, 
and here I must stay, and the best thing I can do is to be cheerful 
and contented. My health, thank God, is excellent, and as long as 
it so continues I shall be reconciled. I would have preferred going 
with Major Bache; but I should have been much more exposed, 
and my life in greater danger from disease than now; though the 
certainty of returning to you, and having an office in Philadelphia, 
1 Captain George D. Ramsay, of the Ordnance Department. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 31 

would have reconciled me to all that. I therefore join with the 
major in our mutual regret at not serving together, for I have found 
him the most thorough-bred gentleman I ever met. Our intercourse 
has been of the most delightful character, and I am highly gratified 
that a year should have passed on duty with him, with so pleasant 
a conclusion. 

I should like to write to mother, but the fact is I am so occupied 
that I have devoted all my spare time in writing to you. You tell 
me she has sent you a piece of Thalberg's. I trust you will practice 
very hard, and bring yourself back to your former exquisite perform- 
ance. You cannot tell how much I now regret the opportunity I 
possessed the year I was in Philadelphia of learning Spanish. Its 
knowledge would now be to me invaluable. Here we are, four thou- 
sand strong, talking of invading Mexico, and not a man who can 
make himself understood to a Mexican, or who could interpret in 
the event of desiring to obtain information from him. Thus we are 
obliged to depend upon worthless characters, who, living on the 
frontier, have picked up a little knowledge of the language, and 
whose character is such that it becomes a question how far informa- 
tion can be communicated through them. I am asked a hundred 
times a day to interpret with traders and others, from the supposi- 
tion that I can converse from my being in the Army Register as 
born in Spain; and upon one or two occasions I have been able to 
understand, and make myself understood, from the little I have 
picked up in my wanderings. How little we appreciate the value of 
time till, alas, it is gone! 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, October 16, 1845. 
A steamer leaves to-day for New Orleans, requiring some repairs, 
and gives me an opportunity of writing to you again, sooner than I 
expected when I last wrote, a few days ago. Nothing has since 
occurred of much importance, except that, much to my regret, our 
expedition to the Brazos Santiago has been postponed, owing to the 
necessity of sending the steamer to New Orleans, which was to have 
taken us down there. I understand we are now to be employed in 
making a survey of this bay and the entrances into it, which will be 
very pleasant duty, but not quite so interesting or so exciting as the 
other. I still continue pretty well, though I have just had an attack 
of the very prevalent disease here, of diarrhoea. The water is so bad 
and the climate so changeable, that almost every man in the camp 



32 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

is affected with it more or less; but it is very mild in its effect, and 
easily yields to medical treatment. 

I have been very much tempted here to commit extravagances. 
The Mexicans from the frontier, who come in great numbers to trade, 
bring with them the most exquisite fabrics, which they call blankets, 
all made by hand by the females, and of the most beautiful pat- 
terns and colors. I have been tempted to get a couple for you, as 
they would make beautiful piano or table covers; but their cost, 
varying from ten to fifty dollars, according to the workmanship and 
variety of colors, has prevented me. When I go away, should I 
have any spare cash, I may bring some. 

If I only preserve my health, and can see a definite limit to my 
stay, I would be contented; for I am delighted beyond measure 
with the climate, and am thus far most agreeably surprised in my 
duties, finding them easier and more agreeable than I had expected. 
I find they are looked upon in a light more important than I had 
hoped they would be, for by the main body of the army I had 
been led to believe we were considered a sort of incubus. 

I have found here many of my old fellow-campaigners in Florida, 
all of whom have met me most warmly, only regretting I had ever 
left the service at all. This has been exceedingly gratifying to me. 

We are here without any news. Everything quiet on the Mex- 
ican frontier, and not the slightest prospect of any collision. Our 
army is occupied in drilling and perfecting its discipline; and, as 
far as that is concerned, this is a very good movement. Things will 
remain this way, I presume, till the meeting of Congress, and then, 
I presume, some definite course of action will be decided upon, and 
I trust we shall all be out of the country by next summer. 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, October 21, 1845. 
The weather has been disagreeably cold and changeable in the last 
few days, and both the gentlemen of our corps who are here with 
me have been and are very ill — Captain Cram with a severe attack of 
dysentery, and Lieutenant Wood with a violent bilious remittent 
fever. I myself have had a return of the diarrhoea so prevalent here, 
and all these things combined to make me low-spirited. Do not be 
frightened about me, but the sight of two gentlemen so sick, with no 
friendly hand near them, no accommodation of any kind whatever 
in a flimsy tent, made me feel badly not only for them, but for my- 
self, in anticipation of being similarly situated. Still, I trust I shall 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 33 

keep well, and if taking care of myself will do so, I am certain of it. 
Both, I am glad to say, are to-day better, though still very sick, but 
not in any danger. The health of the army still continues good; 
there are very few who are really sick, but almost every one you 
meet is complaining of some little disorder, all trifling things, but 
still making them uncomfortable and preventing that enjoyment of 
life which results from vigorous health. Though I should not call 
the climate bad, I by no means call it good, for it is very changeable, 
the mid-day sun excessively hot, the nights cold, with very heavy 
dews; so that you have to be most careful in your clothing, and dress 
yourself three or four times a day to suit the various temperatures. 
Then again, when the "Northers/' or winds from the North, blow, 
the thermometer will fall forty degrees in a few hours, and from 
having been burned by the sun, you are frozen by the cold air, so 
that it requires a pretty stout constitution to stand the racket. I 
have been very much complimented for keeping on my legs, when 
both of my brother Topogs (as they call us) are down. The general 
impression is they got their sickness on the Nueces expedition; but 
I know that is a mistake, for I was in excellent health on that expedi- 
tion, and after I returned. 

We have nothing new here. A gentleman arrived in camp 
to-day who has just returned from Monterey, in Mexico, the other 
side of the Rio Grande, where he saw Arista, the Mexican general 
who commands on that frontier, who said there was not the remotest 
probability of war, that Mexico was utterly unprepared for any such 
emergency, and utterly powerless and unable to make any prep- 
arations. So it seems we are not even to have the consolation of a 
little glory, but are to remain here rusting in idleness, or rather in 
drilling and parading. What my occupation will be I cannot say. 
The sickness of Captain Cram has prevented all the expeditions 
hitherto planned for us, and I have nearly completed all the draw- 
ings of our trip up the Nueces. If I can only keep well, I shall be 
contented to go anywhere, and do anything; and if I get sick I will 
try to get out of the country. 

October 24, 1845. 

Both of our sick gentlemen have been mending since my last. 

Captain Cram is still confined to his bed, though the doctor thinks 

him decidedly better. Mr. Wood's fever has been broken, and he 

has regained strength enough to walk about, and has obtained sick 



34 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

leave of two months. He will leave in a few days for Kentucky, his 
home, and return here at the end of his leave if he should be well 
enough. 

The papers from New Orleans bring us the inaugural address of 
the new President of Mexico, Herrera, in which he gives up the 
whole affair, says "the usurped territory is occupied by our forces, 
but that the internal state of Mexico is such that they cannot redress 
by arms their grievances, to which they must submit, and calls upon 
the Mexicans to wake from their lethargy, and prepare themselves to 
resist any further invasion of their territory." This is acknowledging 
they can do nothing, and are ready to negotiate, so I suppose the 
question of war is settled; but, unfortunately, that will not break 
up this force here. It will doubtless be kept here till negotiations 
upon the subject of boundary are brought to a close, and then a 
certain portion of it will be stationed on the frontier, as settled by 
treaty, and the rest dispersed over the country at their old stations. 
In the meantime we, the Topographical Engineers, will be kept here 
as long as it is kept together, and then ten to one but we are retained 
to trace the boundary line in conjunction with Mexican officers; so 
that I have the pleasant prospect of spending a year here, at the 
least, if not more. Well, if God will only grant me good health, I 
will not complain. It is very expensive for me, and in that light is 
objectionable; but I suppose, if I were not here, I should be some- 
where else separated from you, and perhaps with you not as advan- 
tageously situated as you are now. 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, November 3, 1845. 

When I last wrote to you I was not well; indeed, I had been 
quite unwell, though I was about and in motion. I am glad to say 
I am now quite well again, having gotten entirely rid of my cold and 
cough, and I trust, with a little prudence and precaution, to keep 
well. 

We have no news at all, there is a complete stagnation in such 
matters. The orders have been received from Washington to put 
the troops in as comfortable winter quarters as can be made, and the 
only excitement now is, whether this will be done here, or whether 
we shall be dispersed over the country in places where there is more 
timber and better water. That the army is not to be recalled this 
winter is, however, certain; but for what purposes we are kept here, 
or how long our stay will be, is still indefinite. I trust, however, 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 35 

you have gotten over your illusions of my sudden return, and that 
my previous letters will have prepared you for this, for it is no more 
than I expected. 

But I must not be so gloomy; I have a great deal to be thankful 
for; I have been preserved thus far, and if God will only grant me 
good health, I can patiently wait His good will for the joyous moment 
that is to bring me back. Besides, there are many similarly situated 
with myself; some, I might almost say, even more unfortunately. 
There is my friend, Captain Alden; I wonder at his apparent calm- 
ness and enjoyment of life. His pride will not allow him to leave, 
when active service is possible; indeed he could not; and in fact, his 
attachment to his profession is such, that nothing but similar cir- 
cumstances would induce him to think of it. Yet from conversation 
I think he feels very much his position. By-the-bye I wish you to 
call and see Mrs. Alden, and put yourself out to be civil to her, and 
you may say you do it because I have written to you of the extreme 
courtesy and kindness of Captain Alden to me. I also want you to 
try and get out to see Mrs. Ramsay, at Frankford, whose husband 
is in the tent next me, and his case is harder than mine, for he left 
his wife ill in bed and was obliged to leave her and his family away 
from her relatives and their friends, and dependent on strangers for 
civility and kindness. 

There are now here seven officers, all of whom were in Philadelphia 
when I came away, Major Thomas and Major Randall having reached 
here a few days ago. The latter gentleman expressed great regret 
he had not seen you when he called on coming away. 

A camp where there is no active service is a dull and stupid 
place, nothing but drill and parades, and your ears are filled all 
day with drumming and fifeing. All this is very pretty for such as 
have never seen it, but fifteen years of such business takes off the 
edge of novelty. 

We are to have in a few days a grand review of the whole army, 
which will be an interesting sight from the number of men we have. 
In one point of view, my position is of advantage to me, as it enables 
me to make the acquaintance of nearly two-thirds the officers of the 
army, and you would be surprised how many there are highly edu- 
cated and refined gentlemen among them. I do not believe any 
army in the world can compare with them in this respect. I have 
seen nothing like dissipation, except in some very few instances; 
but there will be black sheep in every flock, and I have been most 



36 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

gratified to find such a state of high-toned gentlemanly feeling, so 
much intelligence and refinement, among a body of men the larger 
proportion of whom have been in the western wilds for years. 

Corpus Christi, Texas, November 12, 1845. 

I had intended writing you a long letter, but the day before 
yesterday I received orders to proceed upon an exploration of the 
Laguna Madre, which is an inside passage from hence to the mouth 
of the Rio Grande. Being sent as principal engineer upon this occa- 
sion, owing to the continued ill-health of Captain Cram, I have had 
a great deal to do, and have been cheated out of the time I had pro- 
posed devoting to writing to you. 

We have now some news which gives me a glimmering of hope 
that I may not be kept here forever. We received a few days ago 
an official communication from Commodore Connor, 1 informing Gen- 
eral Taylor that Mexico had at last consented to negotiate with the 
United States upon the subject of a boundary. This settles defi- 
nitely the question of war, and leads me to hope that the whole affair 
will be settled before the spring, and enable me and many other 
victims to rejoin our disconsolate wives. 

You must excuse the brevity of this epistle, and be contented 
with the intelligence it brings you, that I am quite well and in excel- 
lent spirits at my approaching departure. I shall be absent from 
here some ten days, so that you may expect an interval of two weeks 
between this letter and its successor. 

Camp op Corpus Christi, Texas, December 1, 1845. 

My last letter to you was dated on the 12th ult., just on the eve 
of my departure on an expedition down the Laguna Madre. I was 
out some ten days, and since my return have been so much occupied 
with preparing the drawings and the reports, that I believe I have 
allowed an opportunity to write you to escape me. 

We had very bad weather upon our expedition, and I was much 
exposed. Upon two separate occasions my tent was blown over my 
head, and I wet through and through. Indeed, I returned much the 
worse for my exposure, having become quite bilious and slightly 
jaundiced. The weather has been extremely cold, and the high 
winds that constantly prevail here prevent you from getting your 
tent comfortable. Indeed in all my experience of field service, I 

1 Commodore David Connor, U. S. Navy, commanding the Gulf Squadron. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 37 

have never been so comfortless as now. I feel the cold here more 
than in Maine, because there we had no wind, and plenty of fuel, 
and could encamp in the woods. Here it is all open beach, where the 
wind sweeps in gales, day and night, and there is barely wood suffi- 
cient for cooking purposes, to be procured. It is a fine climate in 
summer, when the wind tempers the burning rays of the sun, but 
now, when the winds are from the north, and cutting cold, it is the 
most disagreeable and trying I was ever in. I shall consider myself 
lucky if I can get out of it without rheumatism or some such pleasant 
remembrance of it. 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, December 9, 1845. 

I wrote my last letter to you on the 1st inst. I am sorry to say 
I have been quite unwell in the meantime, having suffered from a 
regular attack of jaundice. I have been as yellow as an orange, 
and although not sick enough to keep my bed, yet I have felt very 
badly, and have been under the influence of medicine all the time. 
You cannot imagine the total want of comfort which one is sub- 
jected to here. It has been storming and raining incessantly for the 
last three weeks, and when one is taking medicine it is no very agree- 
able accompaniment to be sleeping in wet tents. 

The worst effect, however, of the disease, was upon my mind. 
It made me very low-spirited and gloomy, and for some days, com- 
bined with the bad weather, rendered me quite miserable. I am, 
however, now getting over it; all the uncomfortable sensations have 
left me, and my complexion is gradually clearing. I attribute the 
attack to my recent exposure on the Laguna Madre, though I have 
no doubt it has been coming on gradually ever since I left Phila- 
delphia, for the state of mind I was in for some time after leaving 
home was enough of itself to produce it. 

I must now tell you of a very great temptation to which I have 
been subjected, and am in fact still so. The Medical Director, or 
Chief Surgeon, here is Doctor Craig, 1 a brother of Major Craig, our 
neighbor. He has been attending me, and the other day he came 
to me and said: "I think you had better go out of the country, you 
are not well, and it may take some time for you to get over this thing. 
Everything is settled here, and there is confessedly no necessity of 
your services any longer. I will give you the necessary certificate, 
and General Taylor will give you a leave in a minute." I thanked 

1 Surgeon Presley H. Craig, of the Medical Department. 



38 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

him for his good offices, but told him I would prefer trying to get 
over it here, as I did not like leaving on sickness, unless it were a 
case of absolute necessity. I made him this answer for these reasons : 
In the first place, it always operates injuriously against an officer to 
leave active service on account of sickness; for, even if malicious 
people do not impute his sickness to a desire to get away, it will 
certainly militate against him on the score of efficiency, and he will 
be looked upon as unable to perform hard service. Then again, I 
inquired of some of the younger medical officers with whom I was 
intimate, and they frankly told me they did not consider my case 
one which required change of climate, that I could be cured here as 
well as elsewhere, although they acknowledged the utter want of 
comfort and proper means of taking care of the sick might render 
my recovery longer than if I were in a good house. Then again, 
General Taylor could only give me leave for two months, and at the 
end of that time, should I be well, (and I have no doubt I would be,) 
I would be obliged to return here; so that, using all the despatch 
practicable, I would not have more than two or three weeks to spend 
with you, and should have to endure again all the agony of another 
departure. Finally, I should be obliged to bear all my own expenses 
from here home and back again, as the Government makes no allow- 
ance to officers travelling on leave. This, at the least, would be 
two hundred dollars out of my pocket, which I did not think myself 
authorized to spend. Still, you may imagine what a powerful temp- 
tation it was. At night, when I thought of seeing you and my dear 
children, the happiness I should enjoy in once more having you all 
around me, I would be almost crazy, and determined the next morn- 
ing I would go and get my leave. Could I have been assured that 
I would not be obliged to return here, and that they would put me 
on some other duty, I would go in spite of the expense; but I had no 
such assurance, and the general impression in the camp seems to be 
that in the course of two or three months this large force will be 
broken up and we engineer officers all sent home. All accounts agree 
in stating the Mexican question, as far as war is concerned, to be 
settled, and there is no reason to suppose so large a force will be 
kept here; especially as our relations with Great Britain are assum- 
ing so belligerent an aspect. All these things considered, I thought 
it and still think it best to wait. If I find I do not get over this 
jaundice, that it is likely to hang on and unfit me for service, of 
course I will then, as I have told you all along, have no hesitation in 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 39 

taking a sick leave; but I am very confident there is no apprehension 
of that kind, and I believe Dr. Craig offered to get me out, more 
from his kindness of heart, having taken a fancy to me, and seeing 
there was no particular use in my remaining, and presuming I was 
very anxious to join you and our dear children. I hope you will not 
blame me for the course I have taken, and, rest assured, whenever 
I conceive a change of climate to be necessary, I will not hesitate an 
instant about going. 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, December 17, 1845. 

Since I last wrote the weather has been much more favorable, the 
sun having actually shone for two days, which it had not done before 
for six weeks. My jaundice, too, is almost entirely gone, my appetite 
and spirits returned, and altogether life is another thing to what it 
was a week ago. I now congratulate myself very much for having 
refused a sick-leave; for although I was sure I should get well here, 
yet I did not expect to be restored so soon. 

There are a thousand reports in the camp, making the period of 
our remaining almost any length from one month to a year; but I 
presume the truth is nothing is known about it, even at Washington, 
and my own opinion is that it depends entirely on the negotiations 
with Mexico which are at present being carried on. We will with- 
out doubt await the termination of these. Should it be favorable, 
and the questions at issue be settled, we will be withdrawn; but, 
should it be unfavorable, I think we will be thrown forward to occupy 
the line of boundary as claimed by the United States, and take 
forcible possession of it and let Mexico do what she can. In the 
first case, I should suppose next spring would be ample time to come 
to a definite conclusion, and I might therefore look to getting out in 
April or May; but should the second case occur, there would be no 
telling how long we might be kept here. As to the Tortugas, I fear 
there is but little chance of my getting there. I have a letter from 
Pemberton, of the 16th of November. He says they have been 
three weeks at the Tortugas, and expect to finish by the middle of 
this month; and if they have as good luck in favorable weather as 
they already have experienced, they will finish the whole by May, 
about the time I hope to get away from here. I have therefore 
pretty much made up my mind to being absent from you till next 
summer, and this I shall consider good luck. If I only keep my 
health I shall be contented, hard as is the separation from you and 



40 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

my dear children; but then I am a soldier and must take a soldier's 
fortune. 

This will reach you about Christmas time. God bless you all 
and grant you a Merry Christmas. 

December 18, 1845. 

This did not go yesterday, as I expected, the steamer from New 
Orleans, which is at St. Joseph's, having postponed her departure 
for a day. This will probably reach you more rapidly than my 
letters usually do, but still not soon enough to be a Christmas gift. 
It may get there by New Year's, and probably on our wedding day. 
Only think, five years have elapsed since our fortunes were united! 

I suppose you know that, in a camp like this, where we are sup- 
posed to be awaiting active service, allusions to wives and children 
are considered in bad taste, and one who is always talking about his 
wife is an object of ridicule. General Taylor was telling me, no 
later than yesterday, of what he considered a fine joke, of a young 
officer coming to him and frankly saying: "General, my wife keeps 
writing to me constantly to come home, and really seems very un- 
happy at my absence. I have come to ask a furlough to visit her." 
The general said he laughed and told him that, if he granted him 
permission to be absent on such grounds, he would not have a mar- 
ried officer in camp, as he presumed all wives were unhappy at their 
husbands' absence, and all wanted them back. 

It appears to me strange that there should be so many married 
officers; I suppose at least two-thirds of the officers here are mar- 
ried. To be sure, under ordinary circumstances, they are pretty 
well off, as when in garrison, they can always have their families 
with them. I believe our corps is decidedly the worst for married 
men, for this kind of work is our only duty, and we are necessarily 
absent the greater portion of our time; but with the rest of the 
army it is only on occasions of this kind, when they take the field, 
and leave their posts, that they are separated from their families. 
Still, I would not exchange, for neither you nor I could exist at those 
posts, mostly on the Western frontiers. No, the more I see of our 
army, the more am I reconciled to the corps I belong to; indeed it is 
the only one I would be attached to. In a few days I shall be thirty 
years of age. Only think how old, what a dream has the last ten 
years been to me since I left West Point, what a waste of energy and 
time! I tremble sometimes when I think what I might have been, 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 41 

and remember what I am, when I reflect on what I might have ac- 
complished if I had devoted all my time and energies to one object, 
an object where my exertions would have told in my advancement; 
but, alas, it is useless to speculate on what is passed ! It is said that 
the road to Satan's Dominions is paved with good intentions, and I 
have no doubt many an acre is covered with mine. It is the better 
part now to make the most of a bad bargain, and put the best face 
on it. 

You never say anything about Willie 1 in your letters. How does 
he get on at college? I presume he is with you by this time for the 
Christmas vacation. I have often thought of him while here, on 
account of his military mania, and should like to have him here for 
a few weeks, to give him some insight into the pomp and circum- 
stance. Remember me to him and to Spencer, 2 who, I suppose, is 
most an M.D. by this time, ready to kill people on the most approved 
and scientific principles. 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, December 25, 1845. 
To-day is Christmas. Need I say how I have longed to be with 
you, and how my heart has beat with the recollections of former 
happy Christmas Days! Last night I lay for hours on my rude bed, 
in my tent, with the cold wind whistling around me, and felt warm 
and happy, as I related to memory the truly happy Christmas Eves 
I had spent with you. I thought of last year. Do you recollect 
what a beautiful, clear night it was, and mother and Mariamne 3 and 
myself going out in a cab and making purchases; how thronged the 
streets were with crowds of happy faces; what hustle and commotion 
in each house when the bell was rung; what joyous and merry meet- 
ings then were held? And, afterwards, at the Major's 4 to see the 
interest with which he was putting aside the various presents for 
each of his children! Alas, poor fellow, like myself, he has but the 
recollection of these pleasures to support him now! Here nothing 
is seen or heard but the regular sound of the drum, sending the men 
to bed, and the shouts of drunken men in the little town adjoining 
our camp, which has sprung into existence since the arrival of the 

1 William Sergeant, Mrs. Meade's brother. 

2 Spencer Sergeant, Mrs. Meade's brother. 

3 Mariamne Huger, wife of Thomas B. Huger, U. S. Navy, and sister of 
Lieutenant Meade. 

4 Major Bache. 



42 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

army. Still, I am most thankful to Almighty God for the blessings 
He has thus far showered upon us; you and my dear children, healthy, 
comfortable, and happily fixed; me, though separated from you, 
still in good health and as good spirits as I could be under the cir- 
cumstances. With ample means to support us, all our wants grati- 
fied, blessed with the loveliest children, at once a source of pride and 
the most perfect happiness, who that reflects on this picture but 
must say 'tis black ingratitude to complain! And if I have com- 
plained, it has been because I was not well, irritable from indisposi- 
tion, and because I did not reflect, and instead of expatiating on my 
annoyances, turn over in my mind all the blessings of which I was 
the recipient. 

I wrote you, I believe, in my last letter, that I had quite gotten 
over my attack of jaundice; indeed it was quite a trifling affair, 
though I was a funny object to look at and felt much depressed. I 
have been quite well now, over a week, the weather has cleared up, 
and I have been riding every day. In addition to which I have had 
my tent made more comfortable, by lining inside, and having a rough 
chimney-place constructed, in which I have a little fire that I sit by 
to read and write. I am now, in fact, very snug, and have really 
enjoyed myself the last few days. The last mail, too, brought the 
Message, and the Secretary of War's Report, by which we see there 
is no probability of leaving here before the negotiations with Mexico 
are definitely settled. All appear now to have made up their minds 
to a residence here, at least till June, and though this is a long time, 
yet it is definite, it has a limit, and is preferable to the annoying 
state of mind one was in before, when there was a hope of an earlier 
return, and the probabilities were constantly being discussed and the 
subject agitated, so that you could not help thinking about it all the 
time. Now it is settled, and every one is occupied in making him- 
self comfortable, and finding out means of occupation and amuse- 
ment, and I have no doubt the time will thus soon fly. 

December 26. 
I am in hopes you will see Captain Alden, who will be able to 
give you some account of me, as we were often together. He is a 
most excellent gentleman and officer, very pious withal, but never 
obtruding his religion on those around him. I was unfortunately 
absent when he left here, or I should have requested him especially 
to make you a visit. 






MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 43 

My friend, Captain Ramsay, my next door neighbor in the camp, 
of whom I see a great deal, has been quite under the weather for 
some days past. 

December 27. 

I was interrupted last night by the entrance into my tent of sev- 
eral officers, who remained with me, smoking cigars and chatting, 
until it was too late to resume my letter. It was as well, for this 
morning I have received yours of the 7th inst., unsealed. I suppose 
it has edified some young post-office clerk on the route, and perhaps, 
who knows, but it has been copied as a model. I would advise you 
in the future to look to the sealing of your letters. 

I am very glad to find by your letters that you go out sometimes, 
as you mention having been to Mrs. Hopkinson's and were going to 
Mrs. Vanderkemp's. I see no earthly reason to prevent your going 
upon any occasion that presents itself, and particularly to musical 
parties where you are invited to play. It is your duty to enjoy 
yourself rationally and in moderation; and by abstaining from the 
pleasures of refined society, you are as censurable as if you went to 
the other extreme and gave your whole time and attention to it. 
So, take my advice and follow my example; make yourself as happy 
and enjoy yourself as much as you can, consistently with a proper 
regard for your position. For I readily grant it is unbecoming to see 
a woman, whose husband is absent, running anywhere and every- 
where in search of pleasure, forgetting her self-respect, and making 
herself the subject of comment. But upon this score I have no fears 
of you, and I should really be glad to hear, as I have already stated 
above, of your going out sometimes; and the more agreeably is your 
time spent, the more contented and happy I shall be here. 

January 1, 1846. 
I have had rather a stupid day of it for the First of the year. In 
the morning I was engaged making official complimentary visits to 
the "big-bugs" of the camp, all of whom had egg-nogg and cake for 
their visitors; then we had a race, gotten up by the officers for their 
amusement; and then I dined with a party who endeavored to be 
as merry as they could be under the circumstances; and, in the 
evening, I accompanied them to the theatre; for you must know 
that since our arrival here they have built a theatre and imported 
a company of strolling actors, who murder tragedy, burlesque 



44 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

comedy, and render farce into buffoonery, in the most approved style. 
And now late at night I am jotting down a few thoughts to you. 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, January 10, 1846. 

I have no idea we will go to war with England about the Oregon. 1 
Both countries have too much at stake to hazard their prosperity 
for the small strip of land in dispute; but I fear the talk about war 
will have its influence on the Mexican Government, and the hope of 
seeing us involved in difficulties will give it an opportunity of pro- 
longing the negotiations, and if a good chance offers, of breaking 
them off, in the hopes of assistance from England. On the other 
hand, England will exert all her influence with Mexico to keep off a 
settlement of her difficulties with us, in order to embarrass us, and 
render us more ready to compromise upon the Oregon. In other 
words, England and Mexico will play into each other's hands against 
us, in the hope that by both pressing us at the same time they will 
each obtain more favorable terms. This view is confirmed by in- 
telligence received within a few days from Matamoras, on the Mex- 
ican frontier, by which we learn that General Paredes (in command 
of the army destined to operate against Texas), has declared against 
the existing government, on the ground of its compromising the 
national honor, in consenting to negotiate with the United States; 
that he has effected a revolution, and, by the last accounts, was 
within thirty leagues of the capital, with seven thousand men. 
Should he succeed in overturning the existing government, 2 there 
would be an end to negotiations, and the whole affair will return to 
the state in which it was three months ago. I have no idea he would 
declare war, and if he did, it would be a mere paper affair; but it 
will cause postponements and delays, and our course will without 
doubt be to take possession of the line of boundary which we had 
proposed to treat for, and to hold it with our troops till they have 
the good sense to give us peaceable possession of it. Under all these 
circumstances I see no probability of this force being broken up, 
though we may in a short time advance to the Rio Grande. 

It may be that things will turn out better, and that a treaty may 
be made before Paredes succeeds. I trust in heaven it will be so, for 
I am heartily sick and tired of this country, though I am more com- 

1 The Oregon boundary question. 

2 Paredes had already overthrown Herrera, having become President of the 
Mexican Republic, December 29, 1845. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 45 

fortable and better off than I have been since my arrival here, but 
I dislike the state of uncertainty in which everything is, and would 
prefer being in a place where, though I might have harder work, yet 
I would have the satisfaction of knowing that after having finished 
a certain amount of it, I could return. 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, January 20, 1846. 

Your letters of the 29th ultimo and 1st instant have come to 
hand since I last wrote you. I had been in perfect ignorance of the 
prevalence of the small-pox in Philadelphia, till you informed me, 
for I never see here a Philadelphia paper. I endeavor to hope from 
your letters that all danger is over; still, I am and shall continue 
very anxious till I hear again. I try not to dwell on the risk you 
have been running, and am sometimes frightened to death when I 
think what may have happened since you last wrote. I, however, 
place my trust in that Gracious Providence which has hitherto so 
wonderfully blessed and protected us. 

I received a sweet letter from my dear mother, written on my 
birthday and our wedding day. It was in a melancholy tone, which 
drew tears to my eyes. She looks back thirty years, to the day of 
my birth, when she says she was living in affluence and luxury, and 
fondly hoped her children would never know want, and then she 
speaks — but I will quote her own words, for I fear upon this point 
we have both done her injustice: "Although in my ignorance I was 
cruel enough to send you to West Point, an act for which I never 
shall forgive myself, and never cease to regret, I did not dream that 
you would enter the army, my dear George. It was the moral 
standing of the Institution, and the education which you could not 
escape if you remained there, also the intention of your lamented 
father, who said your mathematical head fitted you for it, that led 
me to commit the act; but I was not then as wideawake as I am now/' 

This infernal revolution in Mexico is deranging all plans and de- 
stroying all hopes. The accounts from that country are contradic- 
tory and vague. 

I am much obliged to Captain Alden for reporting me so well 
and in such good spirits. No doubt in his happiness in the restora- 
tion to his wife and in the delightful post he has been assigned to, 
he saw everything couleur de rose. 



46 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

January 21. 

By an accidental delay this letter has not gone when I intended 
to forward it, and I am better satisfied, as it gives me an opportunity 
of informing you that I am ordered on another expedition and shall 
leave here immediately. It will be under the charge of Captain 
Mansfield, Corps of Engineers, and I shall return to my humble 
vocation of a sub. Like the former ones, it will also be a marine 
expedition, the object being to examine the Aransas Bay, a large 
body of water lying to the north of this place. I believe it is pre- 
sumed we shall be gone some two weeks; you must therefore not be 
surprised if you do not hear from me for some time after you get 
this. 

I am of course very glad to have professional occupation, but 
would have preferred a land expedition, on which I should have had 
the advantage of being on horseback, the exercise being so beneficial; 
but I would rather go in boats than be doing nothing. 

Depot at St. Joseph's Island, January 26, 1846. 

We have reached this point on our expedition. We are about 
thirty miles from Corpus Christi, and shall leave here immediately, 
on our way up the coast along the inside passage. We will visit the 
little towns of Copano, Lamar, La Baca, Linnville, and Matagorda, 
in succession. You will see most of these places marked on the map 
I left with you, and thus can trace our route. We are fitted out for 
a month's expedition, though I trust to be back sooner, and, in fact, 
the General intimated he would probably have to send for us, as the 
recent intelligence from Mexico is of an important character. It ap- 
pears that the revolution under Paredes has made great headway, 
that Vera Cruz and all the important towns have declared in his 
favor, and but little confidence is placed in the troops of the City of 
Mexico, upon which Paredes is marching with a large force. All 
things look as if the next news would be his having overturned the 
Government and established himself in power. This must lead to 
some action on the part of ours, either in the shape of declaration of 
war, or acts of hostilities, or possessing ourselves of such portion of 
territory as we deem ourselves entitled to, through Texas. 

Even the existing Government, which consented to negotiate 
with us, has declined to receive Mr. Slidell 1 as a Minister Plenipo- 

1 John Slidell, minister from the United States Government, was sent to the 
Mexican Government on their consent to "receive a commissioner to settle the 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 47 

tentiary, though it is willing to receive him as an agent simply. 
This will demand some action on our part, even if Paredes is unsuc- 
cessful; so that all things look like protraction and delay. I have no 
idea we will ever get a fight out of them; it will be a paper war 
entirely; but we shall be detained here upon the contingency, and 
Heaven only knows when they will settle the thing. 

Matagorda, Texas, February 18, 1846. 

At length I have an opportunity of sending you a few lines to let 
you know where I am and what I am doing. My last letter to you 
was of the date of the 26th ultimo, written at St. Joseph's, just on 
the eve of my departure. Since then we have been knocking about 
the bays between Corpus Christi and this place, making surveys, 
and visiting towns, and places where towns are to be. 

I am glad to say our expedition has been more agreeable than 
I anticipated, although we have had as bad weather as we could 
well have anticipated. Indeed we have experienced a succession of 
" Northers' ' and rains, but most fortunately have managed always 
to reach good quarters just as they made their appearance. I have 
never experienced more hospitality than has been extended to us by 
the inhabitants wherever they have had it in their power, and at 
this place we are quite in clover. This little town has about five 
hundred people, but they are of a much better class than those you 
generally meet with, as it is one of the old settlements of the country, 
and has a great deal of substantial wealth in it. I have, besides, 
met here several people from Philadelphia, and have been much 
gratified at being able to talk of the old place. I am writing this 
letter in the office of Mr. Fisher, a son of Rhodes Fisher, the brother 
of Coleman, and half-brother of William. Mrs. Fisher resides here 
with her family, consisting of two daughters, one married to a young 
lawyer of this place, the other quite a pretty and sweet girl, named 
Rebecca, unmarried. There are three sons, one of whom has been 
a great deal in Philadelphia, and was there when we were married. 
Upon this we had a good joke. When we came here, three of us, all 
married, we heard so much of the beauty of the young ladies here 
that we agreed to keep silence and pass ourselves off for young men, 
and enjoy our few days under the delusion. But most unfortunately 

present dispute"; afterward sent as a commissioner by the Confederate States 
Government, with James M. Mason, to Great Britain and France, and captured 
on the British steamer Trent in 1861. 



48 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

each one of us found an acquaintance, like Mr. Fisher, who asked 
me if I was the Mr. Meade who married Miss Sergeant, when of 
course I had to say, yes, and thus was blown. However, it has 
served to make all merry at our expense. 

Among other people here I found a Dr. Hultner, an excellent 
musician, especially on the harp, who resided some time in Phila- 
delphia, and had given lessons to many of our acquaintances, and to 
whom I was drawn from the simple fact of his telling me he had often 
heard you play, as he used to go to the Bories, where he gave lessons. 

We arrived here last night and expect to stay here to-morrow. I 
send this through the Texas post-office, and trust it will reach you 
in good time to let you know I am well and am enjoying a little of 
civilization. 

I regret to say that everything looks unfavorable. Paredes has 
succeeded in his revolution, and now we must either look for war, or 
delays, and dilly-dallyings; for negotiations, and then long parleys, 
before this question is settled. I hope for a war and a speedy battle, 
and I think one good fight will settle the business; and, really, after 
coming so far and staying so long, it would hardly be the thing to 
come back without some laurels. 

St. Joseph's Depot, Texas, February 24, 1846. 

We have just arrived at this place (now 9 p. m.), and as there is 
a steamer here that will probably leave to-morrow, I avail myself of 
the opportunity to send you a few lines without waiting for my 
reaching Corpus Christi, where all your letters are waiting for me. 
We shall go there to-morrow, and I will write you again as soon as 
I can. In the meantime I can only tell you I am quite well and have 
stood my expedition in open boats, now thirty-two days long, much 
better than I thought at first I would. 

The report down here is that the army is in a few days to move 
from Corpus Christi and take up a position on the left bank of the 
Rio Grande, opposite Matamoras. It is believed here that this will 
be effected without any opposition on the part of the Mexicans; in 
fact, at present they have not the means of making any, as they 
only have three hundred men at Matamoras. We have received the 
intelligence of the success of Paredes, and also divers proclamations 
from him, calling out troops and making grand preparations on 
paper to reconquer Texas. But all this is believed to be palaver, 
unless we get into a war with England about Oregon, and then Brit- 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 49 

ish troops may be sent to assist the Mexicans, and we may have 
some work. But, unless that occurs, with all the bluster of Paredes 
I do not believe we will be disturbed in the peaceful possession of the 
country, this side of the Rio Grande. Our squadron is also ordered 
to Vera Cruz, and I sincerely trust these movements may induce the 
Mexicans to come to some understanding, that this question may be 
settled. Still, it will take time, and now I have no hope of seeing 
you and my dear children this winter. 

I could not in honor leave now, were I permitted to do so, al- 
though I could have done so a month ago, when things were in a 
comparatively quiet state. But now the forward movement of the 
troops and the refusal to treat with Mr. Slidell place the prospect 
of active operations within the range of possibility, though I do not 
think them probable; yet there is enough to force every one in good 
health to stick by the army, and no one could leave it with reputa- 
tion. You, I am sure, would not wish me to jeopardize myself, and 
will I am confident be resigned when you are aware of the circum- 
stances in which I am placed. 

Major Craig has arrived at Corpus Christi, and left during my 
absence, which I regret, as I should have liked him to tell you how 
he had seen me. I also understand Captain Cram, of our corps, has 
gone off on sick leave. Thus two out of the three with whom I 
came here have gone home sick. Lieutenant Wood has not yet re- 
turned. So that your delicate-looking husband is not so very ineffi- 
cient, after all; for, though I say it myself, there is not another 
officer in the army who has been more occupied and more exposed 
than myself during the last six months. 

My last letter was written to you from Matagorda, where we 
spent three days most delightfully, having been treated in the 
kindest manner by the inhabitants. 

Camp at Corpus Christi, Texas, March 2, 1846. 

I reached here yesterday, having been detained two days at St. 
Joseph's Island by bad weather. We got here about eight o'clock in 
the evening, and I occupied myself from that time till bedtime read- 
ing all your sweet letters and those of my dear mother, which I 
found here for me. 

I find everyone here in a state of excitement incident to our ap- 
proaching march on the Rio Grande. It appears General Taylor 
has received positive orders from Washington to march, and he is to 



50 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

take up a position on the river, immediately opposite Matamoras. 
The good people of Corpus Christi, who have been living on us as 
did the flies on the fox in the fable, and who see in our departure the 
total breaking up of their place, have been making the most gigantic 
efforts to frighten the General from going, on the plea of there being 
a very large Mexican force ready to oppose him; but General Taylor 
is not to be turned in this way from a matter of duty, and he told 
them if there were fifty thousand Mexicans he would try his best to 
get there. These reports of Mexican forces, all exaggerated, and 
most of them coined here, will doubtless find their way into the 
Northern papers, but you must not mind them, and give credence to 
nothing but what you get from me. General Taylor is well advised 
of the movements of the opposite party, and we know that they have 
no more troops there than they have had all along, except a column 
of three thousand, under a General Ampudia, who left the city of 
Mexico the middle of January, and who had not reached San Luis 
Potosi, half of the distance, by the last accounts, though five weeks 
had elapsed since he started. This is but slow marching, and does 
not betray much impatience to drive the d — d Yankees out of the 
country. It is considered extremely probable that they may rein- 
force their army on the Rio Grande, and that they will place de- 
tached bodies in position on this side; but their object will not be 
to oppose us, but to demonstrate to the world that they held military 
occupation of the country when we came there, and were obliged to 
yield to superior numbers. I do not think they can be so insane as 
to provoke a war by an act of hostility, and the opinion among all 
sensible persons here is that our movement will be peaceably effected. 
Still, every preparation is being made for the reverse contingency, 
and if they do undertake to oppose us, they will have to fight pretty 
hard before they can succeed. I mention these things that you may 
not be disturbed by any of the numerous reports that will doubtless 
reach you. 

March 4. 

Not much of importance to add to my letter to-day. The ac- 
counts from the Rio Grande are still conflicting, some saying the 
Mexicans are concentrating to meet us, and others that they have 
all recrossed the river to get out of our way. My own opinion is 
still that there is no such good luck for us as a brush with them, and 
that all will be quietly effected. 

Major Graham left to-day, in command of one hundred men, to 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 51 

escort a train of sixty wagons with provisions, to establish a depot 
on the route, some forty miles from here, about one-third the whole 
distance to the river. When he left, the mess to which I belonged 
was broken up, and I was much complimented by being invited to 
join General Taylor's mess, and informed I should accompany the 
General on the march. In fact, I believe the old man has taken 
something of a fancy to me, and I am considered as being in luck. 

Captain Cram left here on sick leave, some weeks before I returned, 
and Lieutenant Wood has not yet got back from his sick leave. 
This makes me the senior officer of Topographical Engineers with 
the army, though there is another one here, Lieutenant Blake, who 
came here, however, under some special instructions, and is not 
therefore considered regularly attached, though he accompanies Gen- 
eral Worth's brigade, a subordinate position to mine. 

March 5. 
Everything here is hurry-scurry, preparatory for the march. 
The orders are out. The dragoons and Major Ringgold's company 
of artillery move on the eighth (Sunday), and the First, Second and 
Third Brigades follow on each succeeding day. My position is not 
yet settled, as I thought it was, as it was intimated to me I would 
probably accompany the dragoons in the advance. This is very 
agreeable to me, as my proper position is with the advance party. 
Should that be the case, I will leave in two days, as they go on the 
eighth. I will manage to send you a few more lines before I go, and 
then my next letter will be from the banks of the Rio Grande. 

The letters of Lieutenant Meade written between March 5th and 
April 2d, the army then being settled opposite Matamoras, were 
never received, having been either lost in the mail or captured by 
some prowling band of the guerillas who infested the country. 

As Lieutenant Meade states in his last letter that came to hand, 
the advance of General Taylor's army, consisting of the Second 
Dragoons and Ringgold's Battery, under command of Colonel D. N. 
Twiggs, Second Dragoons, began its march on the 8th of March 
for Matamoras, distant one hundred and eighty miles. He was as- 
signed to this command, and was daily on duty with the advance 
guard, examining for the line of march, selecting and laying out 
positions for camps, and performing, in a word, the duty of a topo- 
graphical engineer. 



52 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

The march was conducted with great regularity, and nothing of 
moment occurred during it until Colorado Creek was reached, when 
a few Mexicans appeared, who threatened to open fire in case the 
troops attempted to cross. They, however, all suddenly disappeared, 
without firing a shot or in any way attempting to dispute the pas- 
sage of the stream, which the troops crossed on the same day. 

After a delay of a few days at this point, awaiting the arrival of 
the supply train, General Taylor determined, from information re- 
ceived, to relinquish his intention of marching direct on Matamoras, 
and to march to Point Isabel, which was intended as a base of supply. 
Accordingly, on the 23d the column again moved, and, after advanc- 
ing to within a short distance of Point Isabel and finding that the 
Mexicans had deserted that place, General Taylor directed the main 
body of the army upon Matamoras, whilst he continued with his 
staff and the dragoons to Point Isabel. The army, under the com- 
mand of General Worth, halted within twelve miles of Matamoras 
and awaited the return of General Taylor with supplies. On the 
22d he made his appearance, and on the following day the army 
took up the line of march for Matamoras, and appeared opposite 
that city on the same day. 

Camp opposite Matamoras, April 2, 1846. 
This morning your letters of the 11th and 14th ultimo came to 
hand. With my usual luck in such matters, I did not ascertain till 
this minute that the mail was to return immediately, and now I have 
but fifteen minutes to give you the news since the date of my last 
letter. Nothing, however, has happened, so that much time is not 
required to detail it. Our position with the Mexicans on the opposite 
side of the river remains in statu quo. They continue to work assidu- 
ously, night and day, in putting up batteries all around their town, 
and to decline all intercourse with us; but they have not yet fired a 
gun or committed a hostile act, and when General Taylor made a 
formal demand for the two dragoons whom they made prisoners the 
day we arrived, they replied in a very civil manner, that, though 
they considered themselves perfectly justified in making captures, 
and considered us as invaders of their soil, and enemies, yet, not 
being disposed to complicate the already numerous questions in dis- 
pute between the two governments, they would accede to the de- 
mand, and accordingly did give up the men. It is believed this 
laudable disposition not to complicate affairs will prevent them from 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 53 

interfering with us, at least until they get instructions from the City 
of Mexico, which will take two months. In the meantime we shall 
be so firmly established, and so prepared for them, that they will 
find it to their advantage to continue their quiet course of conduct. 

I have a letter this morning from Palmer, 1 of the 2d of March. 
They were at Key West, and nearly finished, expecting to be through 
by this time. The Major 2 was then to return to Philadelphia, and 
Captain Graham to take command, to complete some unfinished 
work that would occupy them till about the middle of May, when 
all would go home. So, had I been with them, I should be with you 
in June. Maybe, now, I shall be with you sooner. If so, I shall 
never regret coming here, as I have been connected with events that 
will be matters of history, and have been employed on the most 
important duty the army has been occupied with since the late war. 
How I have discharged my part I leave to others to say, but I believe 
I have given satisfaction. 

Camp opposite Matamoras, April 7, 1846. 
I wrote you a few days ago from this place, which at this moment 
is one of some little interest. Nothing has occurred since I wrote 
you to bring the two antagonist forces into collision, though various 
things constantly occur that seem to tend that way, but for the 
prudence and good sense displayed on both sides. I believe I wrote 
you of the Mexicans having captured two of our men the day we 
arrived, and of their subsequently giving them up on General Taylor's 
demanding them. Unfortunately the good treatment they received, 
which they communicated to their fellows, induced a great many 
desertions from our side, and in one night we lost fourteen men, who 
swam the river; and so serious an evil was it becoming, that the 
most active measures were taken to prevent it, and in consequence 
two of our men, who were attempting to swim over, were shot dead 
in the water by our guards. This, together with the return of one 
of them, who had been sent over to obtain information, and who 
gave such dismal accounts of the way in which they were treated, 
being forced either to enter the Mexican army to fight against us, 
or else to go to the mines to labor, have caused the desertions since 
to be much diminished. The men who returned said they had put 
one of our deserters in prison as a spy, because he spoke Spanish, and 

1 Lieutenant William R. Palmer, of the Topographical Engineers, 

2 Major Bache. 



54 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

last night one of our guards, composed of an officer and two men, 
whilst patrolling the banks of the river came to a boat with four 
men in it from the other side. The understanding having been dis- 
tinct that no armed parties would be allowed to cross on either side, 
and these men being evidently Mexican soldiers, our officer attempted 
to capture them, but they being on the alert, got into their boat and 
pushed off, whereupon our people fired on them, and they returned 
the fire, and the guards on their side fired on ours. There the matter 
ended, this happening about twelve o'clock last night. But, to-day, 
a Mexican who came over here said our people had killed one of the 
men in the boat, and as an act of retaliation they had hung the man 
in prison, as a spy. As this last individual was a deserter, of course we 
do not care what they do with him, but we are somewhat surprised 
that they have taken no notice of our having killed one of their men, 
unless they conceive us justified, inasmuch as they were on this side. 

Our spy informs us they have about three thousand men over 
there (just our force), but the most miserable beings you can con- 
ceive — he says more like monkeys than men — and that one regiment 
can whip the whole of them. General Ampudia is expected daily 
with three thousand more, and in the meantime they are putting up 
works, defensive and offensive batteries, and make a great parade of 
their troops every afternoon. Still, they do not fire upon us, and 
they are losing their opportunity daily, for our big guns have arrived, 
and are placed in battery, and we are prepared to knock their town 
about their ears as soon as they fire a shot. 

My impression still continues that they will not disturb us, 
though they will make a great show and keep us in a constant state 
of excitement with the anticipation of an attack. The game is all 
in their hands. We are ordered to come here and maintain our posi- 
tion, if attacked, but to treat them in the most friendly manner if 
they are disposed to be friends. They have already told us so many 
falsehoods that no opinion of their acts is to be gathered from their 
words. They say we are enemies and must leave, and yet when we 
stay they do not disturb us. What they will do when their acces- 
sion of force arrives I do not know, but I believe it will be a bloodless 
war, and that they will not be brought up to the point of attacking 
us. In the meantime we can do nothing but await their action. 

General Worth has resigned his position in the army, owing to a 
decision of the President's upon rank, which he conceives operates 
unjustly on him. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 55 

said to me the other evening, that if I wanted an order 

to go home I could get it, though he declined informing me how he 
had obtained the knowledge of the fact. I told him I had no desire 
to leave, as long as affairs were in their present condition, and that 
I was determined to see the thing out at every sacrifice except that 
of health, and unless I got sick I should remain here until the matter 
was settled or I was relieved from Washington by another officer 
being sent. My opinion is that he had no ground for his assertion, 
because I know General Taylor has said positively he would order 
no one out. I merely tell you this as a piece of news relating to 
myself. I am sure you would not have me leave, under existing 
circumstances. 

I was touched to tears with dear Sargie's 1 remembrance of me in 
his dream. Bless his heart! his image is ever before me, and no lan- 
guage can express the longing desire I have to be with you all. God 
knows what a struggle it is to deny myself any chance of obtaining 
so heavenly a gratification, and that there is nothing I would not 
yield but my honor and reputation, both of which would suffer were 
I to leave now; for I would only be permitted to retire on the ground 
that unwilling hearts are turned out of the ranks just before a battle. 
That is, if I did not want to stay, I had better be away; a conclu- 
sion I am sure you would deprecate as much as myself. And what 
an inheritance to leave my noble boys, that their father left the army 
just on the point of meeting an enemy! And suppose an action was 
had, with what face could I answer, when asked if I was there, " No, 
I left the army a day or two before it occurred." "Did you know it 
was probable?" "Oh, yes, but I was anxious to see my wife and 
children, and embraced the first opportunity to get away." Oh, no, 
this would never do! You would blush as well as myself ! I do not 
mean by this to say I think a collision certain, yet it is possible. 
Outraged Mexico may yet determine to declare war, in which case 
of course we should have a battle. But from all that has happened, 
and their distracted state at the City of Mexico, I do not anticipate 
any such event, and only allude to its possibility, as one excuse for 

not accepting 's offer to get me ordered away. I have no 

idea upon what he grounded his authority; but he gratified me very 
much by saying General Taylor had spoken kindly of me. 

We have most delightful weather now. The summer weather has 
commenced, clear days and nights, with steady sea-breezes. The 
1 John Sergeant Meade, son of Lieutenant Meade. 



56 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

ground on which we are encamped is a ploughed field, and is not so 
good for walking as the shell bank of Corpus Christi, but we have 
abundance of wood at hand, and a fine river of running water at our 
feet. The country immediately on the banks of the river is beauti- 
ful, and fully equal in fertility to the banks of the Mississippi; but 
the one hundred and seventy miles between Corpus Christi and this 
point was the most miserable desert, without wood or water, that I 
ever saw described, and perfectly unfit for the habitation of man, 
except on the banks of a few little streams we crossed. 

As you may well imagine, we are in a good deal of excitement 
here, and thousands of rumors of the most exaggerated and improb- 
able nature are constantly flying through the camp, some originating 
with the Mexicans themselves, who send people over here to tell us 
all sorts of stories of what they are going to do, magnifying their 
force, and power; others, again, are set afloat by wags in the camp 
to hoax their friends and see how a story will increase by being trans- 
mitted from one to the other. The mischief is that all these reports 
get into the newspapers, through letter-writers and others, and unless 
you are on your guard and prepare your people they will be in a 
constant state of alarm. Therefore do not believe anything. As 
long as I can handle a pen I shall write you, and write you the truth, 
to the best of my belief and judgment; and if anything happens to 
me I shall make arrangements for you to hear of it immediately. 
Do not therefore mistake silence for a misfortune. 

Camp opposite Matamoras, April 13, 1846. 
I wrote you a few lines on the 9th instant. Since then nothing 
has occurred to interrupt the state of peaceable non-intercourse which 
existed up to that moment between the Mexicans and ourselves. 
Yesterday, however, a communication was received by General 
Taylor from General Ampudia, who arrived at Matamoras the day 
before with an accession of force and took the command of the 
Mexican Army. General Ampudia states in his letter that he is 
instructed by his Government to summon General Taylor to retire 
with his forces beyond the river Nueces (that is to say go back one 
hundred and seventy miles, from whence we came), and that if he 
failed to commence the movement within twenty-four hours, war 
would be the inevitable result. Of course General Taylor replied he 
had no discretion in the matter. He was ordered here by his Govern- 
ment, in a peaceable manner, and here he should remain, let the 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 57 

consequences be what they may. He called upon General Ampudia 
to weigh well the responsibility he would assume in involving his 
country in a war with the United States; that he himself had but 
one course to pursue, to obey his orders, and must not be held re- 
sponsible for the acts of his Government. What will be the end I 
cannot say, but they have so often warned and summoned and 
threatened to fire, that I am inclined to believe it is another case of 
braggadocio. However, we are prepared for the worst, and should 
they undertake to drive us away they will soon find out their mis- 
take. 

You know I have promised to tell you the truth as it occurs, 
deeming it the safest plan to prevent you from being unnecessarily 
alarmed. For my part I shall not believe there will be war till the 
first gun is fired; the consequences are too momentous to the Mex- 
icans to enter upon it lightly. 

Camp opposite Matamoras, April 15, 1846. 

The General has received most important intelligence from the 
other side, to the effect that yesterday an express had arrived from 
the City of Mexico, bringing orders for General Arista to supersede 
General Ampudia in command, and that all operations against us 
were to cease till the 1st of June. This intelligence was given to the 
General by a Mexican who left Matamoras last night and swam the 
river above our camp, and who says he obtained it from the courier 
himself on his way into town. They, however, tell us so many lies, 
and employ so many and such ingenious devices to deceive us, that 
the General will not allow any information to deter him from making 
the most vigorous efforts to place himself in the strongest possible 
position, and as he has the official declaration of the commanding 
general on the other side, that war would be the consequence of his 
not leaving here in twenty-four hours, he is determined to take such 
measures as will let them know he is serious in his determination to 
remain here. 

He has in consequence ordered the blockade of the mouth of the 
river, up which they derive their supplies, and also given direction 
to the naval commander at the Brazos, to examine all vessels bound 
for this place, and capture such as have on board provisions or mu- 
nitions of war. So that the good people of Matamoras, who are de- 
pendent on New Orleans for their flour, will find in a short time there 
are two parties to this business, and as they have a large force of 



58 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Mexican troops quartered on them, provisions will very soon be 
scarce among them. 

My own impression is that the information received this morn- 
ing is authentic, for this reason: we have received New Orleans dates 
to the 6th instant, and they state that the Mexican Government, 
having refused to receive Mr. Slidell in the capacity in which he was 
accredited, he had demanded and received his passports, but that 
some days had elapsed without his arrival at Vera Cruz, and the 
inference was that the intelligence by the Cambria (which was so 
pacific), having reached Mexico in the meantime, either Mr. Slidell 
had based upon it expectation of being received, or the Mexican 
Government had sent after him for the purpose of receiving him. 
Now, when you join the news with what we have received this morn- 
ing, it looks very much as if the Mexicans had received him and fixed 
this period (June 1st) for the termination of the negotiations. At 
any rate, the immediate battle that has been anticipated by a great 
many in the camp, has passed away, and every one now thinks there 
will be no immediate collision. This is the impression I have enter- 
tained all along, and have written you to that effect, but we have 
been in a great deal of excitement, and when "the peremptory and 
official summons, authorized by the Government, to leave here in 
twenty-four hours or war would ensue," was received in camp, most 
of us began to think that talking was at an end and action was to 
take its place. I, however, had access to the document, and per- 
ceived from its tenor, the words being, "if you fail (that is, to leave), 
war is inevitable," that the construction might be put upon it, 
" shall report your non-compliance to my Government and the dec- 
laration of war on its part is then inevitable." I knew that the 
Mexican Congress was about meeting, and that the President in that 
country has no more power to declare war than our President has, 
and that they have told us since the withdrawal of Almonte, 1 now 
eighteen months, that annexation would be a declaration of war on 
our part, and yet they have done nothing. All these considerations, 
in addition to a knowledge on their side of the consequences of war 
to them, has induced me all along to believe that they would not 
enter into a war as a deliberate act. I did at one time apprehend, 
and should not now be surprised at such a result, that if they col- 
lected on this frontier a larger force than ours (and in a few days 

1 General Almonte, Mexican minister at Washington, was withdrawn in 
March, 1845. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 59 

they will have seven thousand men to our three thousand), some 
aspiring and ambitious general might bring on a collision, with the 
hopes of succeeding, and thus advancing his own interests; but I do 
not believe it will be the act of the Government, and we are so well 
prepared for them now, and have shown ourselves so fearless of the 
consequences, that I am inclined to believe their general will reflect 
a little before they undertake so hazardous an operation. For, if 
you understand our position, we are like men who have crossed a 
river and destroyed the bridges behind them, thus cutting off their 
own retreat and feeling conscious that every exertion must be made 
to sustain themselves. This feeling pervades here all ranks of the 
army, that our only hope either for existence or for reputation (for 
were we to succumb to ten times our number we would be disgraced 
forever, after all the contempt that has been heaped upon our enemy), 
consists in a complete victory on our part; and should the Mexicans 
be foolhardy enough to advance, I believe their only chance of suc- 
cess would be in our total annihilation; for as long as any of our 
people remained alive the battle would be carried on. We have 
placed ourselves in so strong a position, and have such superiority in 
artillery, that it is impossible for them with any force to drive us 
from here; in addition to which we have a battery of heavy guns 
(four eighteen-pounders), erected so as to batter their town, and at 
the first gun we shall rattle them about their ears in such a man- 
ner as will soon silence their fire. 

I presume you will get my various laconic epistles all in a bunch. 
I wrote hurriedly every time I could ascertain anybody was going 
down to Point Isabel. 

I make the sketch underneath, that you may understand the 
various names I use. From Corpus Christi, or rather Saint Joseph's, 
down, there is an island called Padre Island, some one hundred and 
six miles long, and about two miles wide, which forms inside, with 
the mainland, the Laguna Madre (which you recollect I was sent 
last winter to explore). At the foot of this island there is a large 
bay called the Brazos de Santiago, being at the end of the Laguna 
Madre. Into this bay there is a passage called the Barre de Santiago, 
where vessels of nine feet draught can pass, and then six feet of water 
can be taken up to a point of the mainland, called Point Isabel, upon 
which there is a small village called El Frontone, from which it is 
twenty-seven miles overland to our camp, opposite Matamoras. 

My sketch is very rough, but it will serve to clear away much 



60 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

confusion arising from an ignorance of the position of places, and will 
serve to illustrate many of the reports you will see in the papers. 
You perceive our depot is at Point Isabel, where our supplies are 
landed in vessels from New Orleans; then they have to be brought 
up twenty-seven miles to our camp. This is our only weak point, 
because General Taylor's force is so small (at present only twenty- 
five hundred bayonets), that he is obliged to weaken himself to de- 
fend Point Isabel all the time, and in addition has to send an escort 
each time the train of two hundred wagons goes down to get provi- 
sions for men and beasts, and ammunition. Thus you perceive, if the 
enemy are in large force they can cut off our supplies, and a successful 
enterprise against Point Isabel, where we have only two hundred 
men, would be most disastrous to us. Therefore I have been under 
the impression that, instead of attacking us at this point, if they have 
a general worth a sixpence he will attack Point Isabel, help himself 
to our provisions, forage, and money-chest, and then establish him- 
self in our rear and oblige us to cut our way through him to get our 
pork and beans. But we are pretty well provided against this con- 
tingency. We have nearly a month's supply on hand, and each 
train increases it. In a month, if they should succeed in any such 
enterprise, we have plenty of men who could make their way to New 
Orleans, report the fact, and bring back reinforcements sufficient to 
drive them not only back across the river, but far into the interior 
of their own country. But they have no such ideas, although they 
have a larger force now than we have. Instead of offensive opera- 
tions, they are working night and day putting up defences for their 
town, as if they expected us to come right over as soon as the first 
gun was fired, and evidently showing they hold us in very high 
estimation. 

I hope you will not tire with this long military account of matters, 
but, as I presume we poor devils will be heroes in the papers for some 
time, I have written it to you that you may be well posted up, as the 
saying is. 

Camp near Matamoras, April 19, 1846. 
I think I informed you of the report that General Ampudia had 
been superseded in command by General Arista, and that orders 
were said to be given not to fire upon us. This report has not been 
confirmed in any authentic shape, but all accounts agree in saying 
Arista is to come here, and the last two days we hear Ampudia has 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 61 

actually left Matamoras, probably in disgust at being superseded. 
This Arista is one of the most powerful men in the Northern Depart- 
ments of Mexico. He has more at heart the real good and welfare 
of the people than any other of their leaders, and is in consequence 
universally beloved, and can command all the resources of the coun- 
try. Whilst we were at Corpus Christi, he always expressed himself 
to a correspondent he had there, most favorably disposed towards 
the United States, and most anxious to avoid a war, and to com- 
promise the difficulties existing between the two countries. On first 
hearing of his appointment I was inclined to believe it was done to 
avoid a collision, but the mail of to-night brings the intelligence of 
the withdrawal of Mr. Slidell from Mexico, and the refusal of the 
Government to receive him. I now think Arista has been appointed 
with a view to calling out the rancheros, or national militia, and the 
object of Paredes in placing him at the head of the army is to unite 
the people in the impending struggle, which he now sees is inevitable. 
Arista was in command of the troops on the accession of Paredes, 
but resigned, in consequence of his opposition to the manner in which 
Paredes acquired his power; and recently, we understood Arista was 
preparing to revolutionize the Northern provinces, with a view to 
creating an independent confederacy. He is also said to be the firm 
friend of Santa Anna, 1 who is preparing to return to Mexico from his 
exile at the Havana. All these things render it difficult to say what 
his course will be on his arrival; but I am inclined to believe if he 
does accept the command, and finds war inevitable, that he will do 
all he can to unite his countrymen against our further encroachment. 
I continue in my impression that they will not commence the war, 
but I now fear, from the withdrawal of Mr. Slidell, and the President's 
war message, that it is Mr. Polk's 2 intention to force Mexico to terms, 
and that we shall commence the game. Indeed, I look now every 
mail for a large accession to our force, with orders to commence offen- 
sive operations; but upon this point you will be earlier informed 
than myself. 

No open acts of hostility have as yet been committed against us, 
though one or two things have happened which would give us ample 
cause to act, were we disposed or instructed to do so. One of them 
occurred some days ago, but I accidentally omitted to mention it in 

1 General Santa Anna had been President of the Mexican Republic from 1843 
to 1845, when, being deposed by Herrera, he embarked for Havana. 

2 James K. Polk, President of the United States. 



62 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

my last. This was the mysterious disappearance of Colonel Cross, 
the Quartermaster-General of our little force. About the 15th instant 
the Colonel went out to ride in the morning, and did not return at 
night — in fact, has not been heard of since. Immediate search was 
made for him, and parties sent out in all directions to scour the 
country and if possible ascertain his fate. Contradictory reports 
were brought in, but it was generally believed he was taken prisoner 
by a party of armed Mexicans, who were ascertained to have been 
on this side the day of his disappearance. Under this impression, 
General Taylor addressed a letter to General Ampudia, asking him, as 
an act of humanity, and to relieve the anxiety of his family, to in- 
form him if he knew anything of his fate. General Ampudia replied 
he knew nothing of him, that had he been taken by any of the sol- 
diers under his command, or any of his authorized agents, he would 
have been considered a prisoner of war and treated as such, but that 
he had not been captured, and was not to his knowledge on the other 
side. The fear now is either that he was assassinated, for the pur- 
pose of robbing his person or stealing his horse, or else that he was 
carried into the interior of Mexico without the knowledge of Ampudia. 
There are persons who say they saw him crossing the river in charge 
of a well-known officer of the Mexican Armed Revenue police; others 
again, that shots were heard just after he was last seen; others, that 
his horse has been sold in Matamoras; and a thousand contradictory 
statements have been made concerning him. What gives color to 
the idea of his murder is the fact that one of the Mexican officers, 
who brought a letter over to the General when we first arrived, re- 
marked, on seeing several of our officers riding out without arms, 
that it was very imprudent and unsafe, for the lower orders of popu- 
lation were most villainous fellows, who would cut your throat for 
the coat on your back, and advised all officers when riding, to go 
armed. All of us have felt very badly about Colonel Cross, and every 
effort has been made in vain to ascertain his fate. He was the father 
of the pretty Miss Cross who used to be in Washington, if you recol- 
lect, and two of his sons went to college with Spencer. 1 One of them 
is here now (his father's clerk), and is, as you may well imagine, in a 
most distressed state of mind. He, however, clings to the hope that 
his father is still alive on the other side; but the general impression 
is that his life has been sacrificed, and that the disavowal of any 
agency in the matter on the part of the authorities on the other side 

1 Spencer Sergeant, brother of Mrs. Meade. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 63 

prevents General Taylor from taking any steps other than he has 
taken. So great, however, was the feeling, that an officer, of the 
name of Deas, 1 from South Carolina (whose family resided some 
years in Philadelphia), a rather eccentric fellow, undertook of his 
own authority to ascertain the fact, of whether or not he was in 
Matamoras, and without any permission or authority from General 
Taylor, or even informing him of the step he was going to take, de- 
liberately swam the river a few nights ago, and went into the town. 
He was, of course, made prisoner by the first sentinel he came across, 
and is now detained over there a prisoner of war. The manner in 
which he left, being entirely voluntary and without permission, pre- 
vents General Taylor from demanding his release. 

Now I believe you have all the news up to this date. The Mex- 
icans have remained perfectly quiet since their summons, Colonel 
Cross has disappeared, and Mr. Deas made himself a prisoner, and 
the impression is general now, that they will not disturb us; but all 
look anxiously to the United States for an accession of force and in- 
structions to march into the country and take possession of the North- 
ern provinces until Mexico is willing to come to terms, at the same 
time blockading her coast and battering her towns. 

I must confess my sympathy with the unfortunate nation is much 
diminished by the foolish manner in which she has behaved towards 
us. Eight months ago she might have compromised the matter, 
while we were at Corpus Christi; but she delayed and delayed, until 
finally her refusal to receive our Minister renders active operations 
on our part more justifiable than they would have been had she 
adopted a more energetic course from the first. 

I have just finished reading your letter of the twenty-fourth, in 
which you desire answers to several queries which I will take in 
order. In the first place, I am quite proud you should consider my 
present position so distinguished as to reconcile you to my absence, 
and it is a great gratification to me to know that your dear father is 
also pleased with my position. This affords me great consolation in 
what is, I assure you, a terrible trial to me, the separation from you 
and my children; and if it should be my fortune (bachelor-soldiers 
would call it good fortune) to see actual fighting, I shall be nerved 
with the recollection of your good opinion, and of the dear boys who 
will inherit my reputation as well as my name. I regret, in answer to 
your father's inquiry on the subject of promotion, to say there is 
1 Lieutenant George Deas, of the Fifth Infantry. 



64 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

but little prospect of that. Out of the thirty-six officers of my corps, 
there are but three here. Of these only one ranks me; so that, in 
a battle, were the whole army to be cut off but himself and myself, 
neither would gain any promotion, and were all to be cut off but my- 
self, I should only advance one on the list of my corps. Promotion, 
by brevet, as it is called, which is the reward of distinction and gal- 
lantry, is open to me; and I trust if I meet the enemy I may have the 
chance to come back a captain. 

Your second inquiry refers to Sargie's learning to read. Upon 
this point my opinion is decided that he should not be forced against 
his inclination, and I would have no objection to his delaying it till 
he was six or seven years of age. In the meantime paying every 
attention to his physical powers, so that the body may acquire full 
strength to bear the mental growth. I never knew a precocious boy 
to be a distinguished man, though doubtless there are individual ex- 
ceptions to this as to all other rules. But if he is properly taught 
after he begins to learn, he will learn more in three years than he 
would have done in six, if he commenced at four. Besides, he will 
learn to better advantage, the impressions being more durable. My 
advice therefore is, not to force him, but let him take plenty of exer- 
cise in the open air. Keep always cheerful, happy and in good tem- 
per, for education is as much dependent on this as nature. Many a 
fine disposition has been ruined by injuring a poor boy's stomach by 
too early habits of study, making his life too sedentary and destroy- 
ing his comfort for life. He can have his little mind as well impressed 
by your reading to him or telling him proper biblical and historical 
anecdotes, as it could be by his reading himself, and the inclination 
will come in time. I would not fail to impress upon him the neces- 
sity of learning to read, but do not weary and annoy him so as to 
give him disgust for the sight of a book. 

Camp opposite Matamoras, April 21, 1846. 
I should like much to join your French class, and promise myself 
to study hard when I return. I cannot tell you the mortification I 
have experienced when I reflect on the opportunity I have lost in 
yourself and Mr. Merino to acquire Spanish. Every day almost, 
there are communications, written and verbal, passing between the 
generals in command, and there are no interpreters but ignorant Mexi- 
cans and Texans, who have picked up a little English and Spanish. 
However, it has been a good lesson which I trust will have its effect. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 65 

I must now resume my narrative of events, which, doubtless, you 
are anxious to hear; and indeed some things of importance have oc- 
curred. I think when I last wrote I informed you of the peaceful 
intelligence that General Arista was to assume command, and hos- 
tilities not to commence till the 1st of June. This at the time was a 
mere report in Matamoras, and as such brought over to us. Much 
evidence of the same kind has since been given, to prove that Arista 
is to command, but as to the precise period of hostilities nothing is 
known. From a careful perusal of the news brought by the steamer 
Mississippi, with Mr. Slidell, I am led to believe that Mexico has no 
intention of declaring, or commencing, the war herself. In fact the 
proclamation of Paredes, after Mr. Slidell's departure, is to that 
effect. He says he has no power to declare war, that the Congress 
must do it, but that he will repel invasion. Now, at the time of his 
proclamation, he had known for weeks of our march, and his not 
ordering us to be attacked, notwithstanding they consider us as in- 
vaders, proves he is most reluctant to begin the war. But I fear that 
Mr. Polk has no such restraining influences; on the contrary I believe 
he desires a war with Mexico, for he can then take possession of Cali- 
fornia, and hold it by right of conquest, without affording England 
any pretext for interference. But the fact that Mexico has pledged 
California to England, in payment of bonds given for money loaned, 
and upon which she does not even pay the interest, will give England 
a plausible pretext for interfering with the sale of California to us, 
on the ground that it is mortgaged to her. Hence Mr. Polk would 
prefer acquiring it by conquest. What would have to be paid for 
it will cover the expenses of the war, and indeed Mexico may be 
forced to pay the expenses herself. If some such reason has not in- 
fluenced the President, why should he insist on Mr. Slidell's being 
received as a Minister Plenipotentiary, when he was repeatedly as- 
sured by the Mexicans they would only receive a Commissioner? 
If he at heart desired peace, there was nothing undignified in making 
him a Commissioner. The treaties of Ghent, and that of '83 in 
Paris, were made by Commissioners, and it is usual, upon renewing 
intercourse, or after wars, to have Commissioners to arrange the 
preliminaries, and even treaties, and then send your Ministers, for 
it may happen the Commissioners may not agree, and recourse must 
again be had to arms. The requiring Mr. Slidell to insist on being 
received as Minister was a sad blunder of Mr. Polk's, if he desired 
peace; but my impression is he desires war. The question now is, 



66 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

What will the United States do? I think the Senate will oppose, as 
also the House, a formal declaration, but will content themselves 
with blockading the coasts of Mexico, both east and west, and with 
occupying the whole of the territory we claim. However, upon that 
point you will be better and earlier informed than myself; but if 
something is not soon done we shall get up a war here, for in spite of 
our prudence and forbearance, act after act is being committed 
which must end in war. 

I am sorry to tell you the remains of Colonel Cross have been 
found, and it is now placed beyond a doubt that he was foully assas- 
sinated by a party from the other side who were hovering around 
our camp, and at the very time General Ampudia replied to General 
Taylor's letter, denying any knowledge of his disappearance, it is 
now known he was wearing the watch of the unfortunate victim, and 
some other officer riding his horse. It appears from all the testimony 
that can be obtained, that the Colonel was captured while riding 
alone some three miles from the camp, by a party of rancheros, as 
they are called (that is, a militia composed of the laborers upon the 
farms or ranches) ; but that they had an officer of the regular army 
with them, and that this officer carried him into the woods and then 
foully murdered him and stripped him of all his clothes. His body 
was discovered by a Mexican, and a party sent out to bring in his 
remains. They will be buried with the honors of war, though his 
poor son intends taking them to Washington with him. This poor 
fellow has won the sympathy and affection of the whole army by 
his manly deportment ever since his father's disappearance. He 
held on to the last moment in the vain hope that his father was a 
prisoner on the other side, but now he is satisfied of his murder, and 
his grief you can well imagine when you recollect his youth, and his 
position, far away from friends and among strangers. This dastardly 
act, and the mean lie of the commanding-general on the other side, 
have inspired us all with a burning desire to avenge the Colonel's 
murder, and have destroyed all the sympathy that some few did 
still entertain for a people whom they deemed unjustly treated. 
These prowling parties have of late become more bold and numerous. 
They are just like Indians, hiding in the bushes whenever a force 
comes after them, and seizing upon all single individuals they find 
on the road. Two young officers 1 desirous of distinguishing them- 

1 Lieutenants Theodoric H. Porter, of the Fourth Infantry, and Stephen D. 
Dobbins, of the Third Infantry. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 67 

selves, one of whom was a son of Commodore Porter, obtained per- 
mission to-day from the General to take each ten men and go and 
lie in wait for these fellows, and capture them. I do not anticipate 
success on their part, and fear their force is too small, but they are 
sanguine and have gone. You must not be alarmed about me; I 
shall take good care not to go out without a proper escort. I am too 
old a soldier to be caught in such a trap, and have seen Indian war- 
fare before to-day. Before Colonel Cross's death it was usual for 
the officers to ride in all directions, hunting and for exercise, but I 
never went more than two miles, always with a party, and always 
on open ground, where I had a fair view of every thing around me. 
I do not mention this in a spirit of vain boasting, but to calm any 
fears you may have of my falling in as inglorious a manner as did 
Colonel Cross. He was an officer of great distinction, and had just 
made up his mind to leave the army, owing to an unfortunate ques- 
tion of rank, which has grown up of late years, and which the Presi- 
dent had decided against him. A few days more and he would have 
been on his way to rejoin his family, and as he was a man of property, 
had expressed his intention of leaving the service, and living at 
home. Such is the will of God, and such the uncertainty of human 
plans and projects. 

This intelligence as you may imagine has cast a gloom over all. 

April 22. 
The plot is thickening. My worst fears with reference to Lieu- 
tenant Porter are realized. Some of his men have returned and re- 
port he is without doubt cut off. The story, which is very plain, 
and which has been confirmed by some Mexicans, is as follows: 
Porter followed the thicket which skirts the bank of the river for 
some twelve miles, when he suddenly came on the camp of some 
Mexicans, one of whom snapped his gun at him. Porter discharged 
his gun at him twice, and his men then fired on the Mexicans, who 
retreated in disorder, leaving some nine horses, which Porter took 
charge of. He then mounted his men on the horses, and was about 
returning to camp, when they were overtaken by a violent shower of 
rain. The men then desired him to stop, to allow them to protect 
their arms, but he unfortunately (here was a great error), in his 
anxiety to return, pushed on, and very soon came to the edge of an 
open space where he was met by a Mexican, who commenced bowing 
and scraping until he had seen how many were in his party, when he 



68 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

rushed into the thicket and immediately one hundred men showed 
themselves and opened a fire on our people. Poor Porter fired both 
barrels of his gun, and his pistol, and then, finding the guns of his men 
would not go off, motioned them to retire into the thicket, which they 
did, scattering and straggling into camp. One of them, however, 
remained near, to look after Porter, and saw him fall from his horse 
with appearance of great bleeding from his thigh, and in a few min- 
utes he was motionless. The rascals, as soon as our men retreated, 
rushed out of the thicket and commenced plundering Porter and one 
of his men who was killed at the first fire. All the rest of the party, 
nine in number, got safe into camp, and the Mexicans tell us that 
Porter killed one man and wounded two so badly they are not ex- 
pected to live. This is considered a most unfortunate affair, as the 
effect on these people will be to give them confidence, although they 
had one hundred to eleven, and our guns unserviceable. It was 
thought by many most injudicious to allow an officer to go out with 
so small a party; but it was his own suggestion to go, and his request 
to have only ten men, as he feared a larger party would frighten them 
out of his way; and no doubt is entertained that had his guns have 
been efficient, he would have routed the whole of them; indeed they 
have acknowledged it was their intention to run in that event. A 
party of fifty dragoons was immediately sent out to look for him, 
but they could not find the place, owing to the thicket not admitting 
of their horses passing. They, however, met the other party, under 
a Lieutenant Dobbins, and informed them of Porter's disaster and 
advised them to return; but Dobbins said his pieces were in fine 
order and he would not abandon the pursuit till he found Porter or 
the Mexicans; and so cowardly are they known to be, that no appre- 
hension is entertained for Dobbins, as he is known to be extremely 
prudent and an excellent woodsman. A party of fifty foot, however, 
leave to-morrow, and as the Mexicans will without doubt retire for 
a few days, to avoid the search which they know will be made, it is 
probable this party will reinforce Dobbins before he reaches them, 
and the two together will give them a sound drubbing. 

Poor Porter leaves a young wife and a child. He was a clever 
fellow, loved by all; and though regretted by all, it is a great consola- 
tion to know he met a soldier's fate in so gallant a manner, and made 
three of his enemies bite the dust before he fell. They must have 
been great cowards to allow nine of our men to return unpursued to 
camp; some of them, although only fifteen miles distant, being three 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 69 

days in finding their way through the thicket. Porter's fate is much 
less deplorable than Colonel Cross's. The body of the latter was 
brought in to-day, and will be buried to-morrow with the honors of 
war, and his son will then take the remains to Washington. 

Doubtless you will ask if this is not war. Yet it is not so con- 
sidered. General Taylor informed the authorities on the other side, 
on his arrival here, that all armed parties found on this side would 
be captured, and it was in pursuance of this that Porter went out to 
scour the thicket. If they do not complain on the other side, we 
shall not; our loss, with the exception of Porter, being only equal to 
theirs. But such acts as these, if continued, must bring on a gen- 
eral collision. General Taylor is desirous of avoiding this if he can, 
as he wishes war to be the act of the Government, and not his. But 
I have no doubt that as soon as the field-work we are constructing is 
finished, he will take more active measures to punish them than he 
is able to do now, as all his force is employed in constructing the 
work. The feeling of exasperation against the Mexicans is most 
intense, and if we once get to blows we will make them repent their 
dastardly murders. Last night a boat which had drifted across the 
river was secured by our guards. An hour afterwards a party was 
seen approaching the shore in another boat, evidently with the in- 
tention of seizing it. They were hailed by the sentinel, and not 
answering, were fired at, and some six or seven shots were also fired 
at them by the guard, but with what effect is not known, owing to 
the darkness. They, however, retired, and the boat is still in our 
possession. This brings me up to to-day. On the other side they 
have taken no notice of these things, and we of course let them pass. 

Several naval officers arrived in camp this morning from Point 
Isabel, among them young George Harrison Hare. They are at- 
tached to the fleet, which, under General Taylor's orders, has been 
blockading the mouth of the river; and they came to report to the 
General that they had warned off two vessels laden with flour for 
Matamoras. This will make my gentlemen open their eyes when 
they find their supplies cut off. The only chance for them now is to 
send to Monterey, some three hundred miles in the interior, which 
is the nearest agricultural district, and it is extremely doubtful if 
there is sufficient surplus produce even there to feed so large a force 
as they have collected opposite, besides provisions for the town. 

I wish you would preserve these letters, as they will be of some 
use to me hereafter in referring to events. 



70 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

April 23. 

This has been something of an eventful day, inasmuch as we 
have at length assumed a position with reference to these people 
which I think will bring them to their senses. 

General Taylor received this morning a despatch from General 
Ampudia, referring to two vessels laden with supplies for his army, 
which he says, in violation of all usages of civilized nations, have 
been captured without a formal declaration of war or blockade, and 
demands their return. He says, " it is useless for me to recapitulate 
the evident justice of my demand, or the inevitable consequences 
that will result from an unexpected refusal." General Taylor has 
sent him back an answer that I fancy will puzzle him to act on, and 
has at length assumed a position in which I am sure the country will 
support him, and for not assuming which earlier many of less prudent 
judgment have censured him. 

He recapitulates to General Ampudia the leading recent occur- 
rences. He says: "On breaking up his camp at Corpus Christi, he 
published an order to his army, informing them the War Department 
had ordered him to take position on the left bank of the Rio Grande, 
but to do it in a peaceable manner, and only to exert force when an 
attempt should be made to stop him. He therefore enjoined on all 
officers and soldiers the strictest courtesy to be exercised towards all 
Mexicans peaceably pursuing their avocations; that his object was 
not war, and that no individual should be disturbed in the exercise 
of his civil or religious rights; that nothing was to be taken by force, 
but the highest market price to be paid for every article the people 
were disposed to sell. This order was translated into Spanish and 
distributed along the frontier, and to his certain knowledge met the 
eye of the commander at Matamoras. But, notwithstanding his 
order, he was met some twenty miles from the Colorado, and at the 
Colorado, by armed parties who protested against his advance; said 
they considered it as an act of war, and we could be considered only 
as enemies. When near Point Isabel he was met by a civil deputa- 
tion, who said the same thing, and whilst talking to them, the village 
of Frontone was set on fire, itself an act of war; that on arriving at 
the banks of the river he sent an officer to explain to the commanding- 
general (then Mejin) that we were simply in the discharge of a duty, 
which we desired to execute in a peaceful manner, having nothing to 
do with the responsibility of ordering it, and desiring amicable rela- 
tions should exist until one of the two Governments should order 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 71 

otherwise; but he was answered that they viewed us as enemies. 
He, moreover, in a spirit of compromise, told them he would not 
interfere with their using the Brazos de Santiago, to land their sup- 
plies, and they might collect revenue till the question was definitely 
settled between the two Governments, which offer they indignantly 
declined. That since that time they have assumed a hostile attitude, 
in the erection of offensive works, and in sending over to this side 
armed parties, and at this moment they detain in Matamoras, as a 
'prisoner of war, an individual who, voluntarily, and without arms, 
went over there. Still," says General Taylor, " we failed to notice 
these oft-repeated declarations and acts, until his Excellency, Gen- 
eral Ampudia, arrived and formally summoned him to leave here in 
twenty-four hours, or he was instructed to say by his Government, 
war would inevitably ensue. Then his forbearance ceased, and not 
being permitted by his orders to leave here, he adopted the alterna- 
tive presented, and prepared himself for the consequences. Not 
deeming it necessary to commence by an overt act the hostilities 
himself, he yet adopted the mildest measure authorized by the state 
of war they had so often informed him existed, and ordered the block- 
ade of the river, so far as not to permit vessels to enter. That in 
pursuance of these orders, two vessels from New Orleans, with flour, 
had been warned off, and had returned to New Orleans. That no 
captures had been made, but that, if any attempt was made to force 
the passage, they would be made. That he had reported this block- 
ade to his Government and should not take it off till it ordered him 
so to do, unless he, General Ampudia, was disposed to enter into some 
arrangement by which peace and quiet should be restored here until 
the two Governments could come to some definite action, either by 
treaty or a formal declaration of war, in which case he would very 
willingly withdraw the blockade. That as to the consequences, he 
begged to assure his Excellency he was ready to meet any that might 
ensue, and that he was at perfect liberty to take any action he thought 
proper. That if this should bear heavy on them, they had nobody 
to blame but themselves, as he had manifested every disposition to 
execute his duty with as little unfriendly disposition as possible, but 
they had themselves rejected all his overtures and pursued such a 
course as rendered forbearance no longer a virtue. In conclusion, 
he called his Excellency's notice to the tone of his note, which was 
too exceptional to pass without comment. That hereafter, should 
he have communications to make they must be couched in language 



72 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

respectful to himself and his country. He could no longer permit 
him to indulge in insinuations of fraud, deceit, etc., etc., and one 
thing particularly he desired to tell him, no threats or intimidations 
would ever prevent him from performing his duty, or cause him to 
change any line of conduct he deemed fit to adopt." 

This will be a bitter pill for my friend General Ampudia to swallow. 
He must now either fight or back out of the foolish position he has 
assumed, keeping up a state of quasi-war, and sending over bombastic 
letters filled with denunciations and threatening us with the mighty 
power of the Magnanimous Mexican nation. The boot is on the 
other leg now, and we are going to try our hand at bullying. The 
letter has been in his hands half the day now, and no notice has been 
taken of it, or any action. My impression is that Arista, who is 
hourly expected, and who is a sensible man, will adopt General Tay- 
lor's suggestion, and have an armistice till the action of the two Gov- 
ernments can be had. I do not believe the cowardly rascals will 
fight unless they attempt some enterprise against our wagon train 
to get provisions, or attack our depot, in which case I presume we 
will knock their town about their ears and make it too hot for them 
to live in. 

General Taylor's letter was courteous, straight forward and to 
the point, and it now rests with them to adopt the alternative, either 
to fight us, or to behave like rational beings till the moment when 
our Government or theirs shall see fit to alter things. My hope is, 
that when all these things become known at Washington, our force 
will be largely increased, the coasts east and west strictly blockaded, 
we advanced into the Northern Departments of Mexico, and accom- 
panied by a commissioner, who shall be empowered to arrange the 
preliminaries of a treaty between the two countries whenever the 
Mexicans can be brought to their senses. General Scott 1 would be 
an excellent officer for this duty, and I hope the Government will 
send him here with some fifteen thousand additional and efficient 
troops. This will be the shortest way of settling matters, and I be- 
lieve the only way. These people will palaver without action to the 
end of time, and nothing but strong and prompt acts on our part 
will ever bring them to reason. 

I do not think you will complain of the length of this letter, or 
accuse me of omitting interesting matter. Upon deliberation I deem 
it the best plan to tell you the truth and the whole truth, believing 
1 Major-General Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief, U. S. A. 






*<- /f ie 

A 6#ACC'S t3ATT£ft.y 
B Duncan's x> . <l» 







SKETCH SHOWING THE POSITION OF THE ARMY OF OCCUPATION OPPOSITE MATAMORAS 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 73 

you have firmness and energy to prevent you from indulging in un- 
necessary alarm, or fretting yourself about fancied dangers. We are 
not yet in war, and I am reluctant to believe we shall be, except it be 
by our own action, in which case you will be sooner informed than 
myself. It must, however, be submitted to if it comes, and true re- 
ligion teaches us our lives are in the hands of Him who gave them, 
and not a sparrow falleth to the ground without His knowledge. 
Let us rely then on His mercy and kindness, and submit with cheer- 
fulness and resignation to His Divine will. 

I am in fine health and good spirits, enjoying myself as well as 
I can away from you and the dear children. 

I hear so much of the beauty of the table-land near Monterey, 
that I begin to feel great desire to see it, being confident if we start 
with a proper force nothing will impede our progress there. My time 
is principally occupied in drawing, and all my spare moments I am 
on my horse's back, galloping about within the lines of our camp. I 
find the more I exercise the better I am, and really believe if I could 
be kept going all the time I should be infinitely improved in health 
and appearance. 

Camp opposite Matamoras, April 26, 1846. 

I have a few moments to write you one of my hurried letters. 
Things have assumed a more serious aspect since the date of my last 
letter. General Arista has arrived and sent over a letter, informing 
General Taylor of his arrival, and as hostilities had been commenced 
(alluding to the blockade and Porter's affair), he had no other course 
to pursue than by his deeds to vindicate the Nation's honor and cause 
the United States to respect Mexico. General Taylor has replied to 
him his object was and is peace; he had hoped from General Arista's 
high character that, on his arrival, some good understanding could 
be had between them, but as he insisted upon war, he, General Tay- 
lor, should leave to him the responsibility of commencing it, but was 
fully prepared for the consequences. 

Simultaneously with the receipt of Arista's letter, we received 
authentic information they were crossing the river about twenty-four 
miles above here, with the supposed intention of attacking our train 
and depot, but this has been the rumor so often before, that we are 
all tired of it. Still, so authentic does the General deem it now to 
be, that he has sent for reinforcements to the interior of Texas, and 
to New Orleans, and we hope to have them here by the middle of 



74 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

next month. Then we shall be prepared for offensive operations, 
whereas, now, our force is too small except for defence; but in this 
respect we are strong, and no Mexican force can make us move from 
where we are. 

I am frank to confess that I believe a collision is not improbable, 
but, at the same time, there is so little absolutely known of the 
Mexicans, their views and intentions, that it is impossible to form 
correct judgment. One consolation is to be derived from the present 
aspect of affairs, that I really believe a collision will be the best means 
of accelerating matters; in fact I fear this is the only way the question 
will ever be settled, for these people have no reason in their conduct. 
My only regret is the Government did not send a large force in the 
first instance, and overawe the Mexicans. If we were determined 
to take the country from them, it should have been done in such a 
manner as to crush at once all hopes of resistance on the part of the 
Mexicans. Ten thousand men would have effected this, and judicious 
economy would have suggested their being sent, for a war will cost 
a hundred times as much. 

Camp at the Frontone, Point Isabel, May 2, 1846. 
We arrived at this place last night, with twenty-two hundred 
men, our object being to obtain provisions and other supplies, and 
to relieve this point, which General Taylor understood was threat- 
ened by the enemy. We left five hundred and fifty men in the fort 
we constructed opposite Matamoras, in a position capable of defend- 
ing themselves. I send you a little sketch of our position in our 
camp opposite Matamoras; my tent was the last in the line, marked 
"Head-quarters." Our position was very strong, but the necessity 
of coming here for provisions obliged the General to leave with his 
whole force, except the garrison of the fort inasmuch as we had posi- 
tive information the enemy were in force between us and our depot, 
and it required a strong escort to protect the train. We, however, 
came here without seeing a soul, and it is questionable if we shall not 
return in the same way. But, as I wrote you in my last letter of the 
26th ultimo, the war has commenced and cannot now be finished 
without fighting. We must therefore both make up our minds to 
resign ourselves to the will of God, and looking cheerfully and with 
hope on the bright side, trust to His mercy to carry us through the 
difficulty, as He has done many times before. I think, of course, a 
great deal of you and my dear children, and feel confident it will not 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 75 

be long now before I rejoin you, and then our happiness will compen- 
sate us fully for all the misery we have endured for the last nine 
months. I believe a war is the speediest means of bringing about 
a final settlement. Of course I should have preferred a settlement 
without a war, but it is useless to comment on the past; the future 
alone must now occupy us. We are yet too weak to act in any other 
manner than on the defensive, which we are fully prepared to do, 
and if the enemy seek us, we will give a good account of ourselves, 
but, until reinforced, we cannot seek them. 

Camp at the Frontone, Point Isabel, May 5, 1846. 

I have at length most glorious news, which gives me heartfelt 
pleasure to communicate to you. In my last letter I sent you a 
sketch of our position opposite Matamoras, with the fort, or rather 
field-work which we had constructed, and in which we left the 
Seventh Regiment of Infantry, with detachments from other corps, 
amounting in all to some five hundred and fifty men. We left our 
camp on the 1st instant, to march to the relief of this place, and to 
procure provisions and ammunitions. We arrived here on the second, 
finding all safe, and on the morning of the third we distinctly heard 
here heavy cannonading, supposed to be an attack on our fort by 
the Mexicans. General Taylor, as you may well imagine, was in 
great anxiety. He could not leave this point, without increasing its 
defences and strengthening its garrison; this required time and a 
diminution of his force. At the same time, the sound of the enemy's 
guns, and the consciousness that our force was too small in the fort 
for any purpose than merely to repel assaults, made all anxious to 
hasten to its relief. He, however, despatched an express by a gallant 
Texan, by the name of Walker, who being perfectly well acquainted 
with the country, said he could make his way into the work and bring 
us back the news. This bold fellow left on the afternoon of the third 
and had not returned at 8 A. M. to-day. In the meantime one or two 
others had started out at the same time, for the same purpose, but 
returned, stating the country was filled with Mexicans, and it was 
impossible to get through them. Fears were openly expressed for 
Walker, when about nine this morning he made his appearance, 
having been in the fort and brought an official report from Major 
Brown, its commanding officer. 

Major Brown reports that at 5 A. M. of the morning of the third, 
the Mexicans opened all their batteries on the work, and kept up a 



76 LIFE AND LETTERS OP GENERAL MEADE 

vigorous and continuous fire during the whole day. He commenced 
deliberately with the four eighteen-pounders of Lowd's Battery (see 
my sketch) and regularly dismounted every gun of the Mexicans, 
that was visible, by the evening, completely silencing their fire, with 
the exception of one mortar placed in the circular battery of the 
Mexicans, which was sunk so low beneath the parapet that they could 
not reach it. With this mortar the Mexicans continued their attack 
up to the time Walker left (yesterday afternoon) but had effected no 
damage to our work or people, except killing one Sergeant by the 
bursting of a shell. Major Brown had expended but a small propor- 
tion of his ammunition, and was in high spirits, expressing himself 
prepared to hold out as long as they had provisions. Walker says 
in addition, that about one-half hour after he left he heard platoon- 
firing, or rather small arms, and thinks the works have been assaulted. 
But from this we entertain no fears; the works cannot be carried by 
a mere assault, and they cannot erect their batteries, owing to our 
superior artillery and artillerists, so as to make a breach. Therefore 
we now feel no concern about the fate of the works, and the good 
news has so inspirited all of us that we may consider ourselves equal 
to double the number we were before. 

I am sorry I cannot report I had a share in the affair, for every 
officer who is there will without doubt be promoted for the gallant 
defence. By-the-by, the engineer of the work, Captain Mansfield, 
is from Hartford, Connecticut, and has often spoken to me of the 
Alsops and Dr. Muller. If they recollect him, say he has gained for 
himself great credit for the design and execution of the work, and still 
more for his energy and bravery in its defence. 

Yesterday a steamer arrived from New Orleans, bringing dates 
to the 28th ultimo. An officer who came in here states the only in- 
telligence they had received was the assassination of Colonel Cross, 
and that this had created a tremendous excitement, and when the 
news of actual war having commenced reaches there he has no doubt 
five thousand men will be over here in ten days. With this force we 
shall drive all the Mexicans to the mountains, but in the meantime 
we are all anxious to give them a sound thrashing before the volun- 
teers arrive, for the reputation of the army; for should we be unable 
to meet them before they come, and then gain a victory, it would be 
said the volunteers had done it, and without them we were useless. 
For our own existence, therefore, we desire to encounter them. The 
steamer also brings intelligence of the expected departure, soon after 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 77 

she was to sail, of two steamers, one bringing one hundred and eighty 
recruits, and the other four companies of the First Regiment of In- 
fantry. This will increase our little army some three hundred men, 
which will render the garrison of this place sufficiently strong to sus- 
tain itself against any attack, and leave General Taylor some twenty- 
four hundred men to march to Matamoras with. Our only inferiority 
(except in numbers) to the enemy is in cavalry, they having some 
two thousand and we only about two hundred. But we have two 
batteries of field artillery (one you have seen in Philadelphia, Major 
Ringgold's) which are so far superior to anything they have, from 
their rapidity of manoeuvring and firing, that we fully expect an- 
nihilating their cavalry, when they show themselves. We only wait 
now for the arrival of the steamers from New Orleans, when we shall 
march for Matamoras. 

I should have mentioned your friend Dr. McPhail is in the fort, 
and it is confidently anticipated that even before this he has com- 
posed a piece of poetry commemorative of the event, which will be 
set to music, and without doubt you will receive an acquisition to 
your musical library. 

We were obliged to leave all our baggage in the fort and in my 
trunk I left your miniature, bringing with me the daguerreotype. I 
very much fear some impudent shell has ere this blown you up, and 
you will have been in action before myself. 

Camp at the Frontone, Point Isabel, May 7, 1846. 
I have but little additional intelligence to give you, beyond my 
letter of the fifth of our operations here. We are assured of the safety 
of our friends at the fort opposite Matamoras, by hearing at intervals 
the sound of their guns. About two hundred and fifty men have 
arrived since my last, and will be left to strengthen this place, and 
an additional quantity of artillery (ten and twelve pounders) which 
will make it strong enough to resist any force the Mexicans can 
bring against it. Under these circumstances General Taylor deems 
it advisable to move to the support of the fort opposite Matamoras, 
as it is not impossible it may be getting short of ammunition. The 
army, in consequence, moves this afternoon at three o'clock, and I 
shall accompany it. There are various reports of the number and 
position of the enemy between us and our destination, but there are 
none to be relied on, except that we have every reason to expect to 
meet them whenever we move across the country. I fully believed 



78 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

we should meet them coming here, and regretted they did not show 
themselves, for we had but a small train of wagons, and could have 
met them unencumbered. But now we take a large train of provi- 
sions and ammunition, which, in itself, impedes our movements and 
makes our loss the greater if we fail. All, however, are in the best 
of spirits, many believing they will not dare to meet us after the re- 
sult of the attack upon the fort, and their experience of the superi- 
ority of our artillery; but my own impression is that we may expect 
to meet them every time we go out, though I should not be surprised 
if we did not see a single Mexican. A few days will tell, and I will 
write you by the first chance. 

Our reinforcements — I mean the militia — are looked for daily, 
and as soon as we get them Matamoras will be ours. Then we shall 
command the river and can use it for our boats, instead of this in- 
convenient twenty-seven miles of road that we have to haul over 
now, and which is almost impassable in wet weather. 

By the time this reaches you the intelligence of the commence- 
ment of the war will be in the papers, and probably the action of the 
Government therein. I trust it will be speedy and energetic. Mex- 
ico, to be sure, is an insignificant power, but it is as necessary to 
teach her her position as if she were more formidable. Besides, I 
believe she is fully able to cope with us for some time, unless we exert 
our whole energy in bringing her to terms. There should be on this 
frontier a well-appointed army of thirty thousand men. With these 
we can occupy the whole of the Northern Departments, to the foot 
of the mountains, keeping a strict blockade of her coasts on both 
sides. She will soon have a revolution in our favor, and the ques- 
tion settled. 

Camp at Las Palmas on the field of battle, about two miles 

from our camp opposite Matamoras, May 9, 1846. 

Give thanks for my having passed through two hard-fought 
fields, 1 untouched and safe, in both of which we have been signally 
victorious. The Mexican Army is utterly routed and defeated, and 
we have made an impression on them that will last for a long time. 
But I will endeavor to give you a succinct account from my last 
dates of affairs up to this moment. 

I think I wrote you on the seventh, just previous to our departure 
from the Frontone to relieve our fort opposite Matamoras. I fear 

1 El Palo Alto, May 8, 1846, and La Resaca de la Palma, May 9, 1846. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 79 

my letter was gloomy, as I felt confident the enemy, excited by the 
booty of our wagon train (three hundred wagons, loaded with pro- 
visions and ammunition), would give us battle and test their strength 
with ours. Of course I could not anticipate the result, and felt it my 
duty to refer to probabilities. 

We encamped on the seventh in the open prairie, about seven 
miles from the Frontone. On the eighth, about one o'clock, when we 
were eleven miles from the Frontone, at a pond of water called El 
Palo Alto, the enemy appeared on our front. General Taylor very 
coolly allowed all the army to rest and refresh themselves, and had 
our whole train brought up and parked on the pond. The enemy in 
the meantime came out of the woods, some two miles beyond our 
position, and formed in line of battle, less than a mile in front of us. 
As soon as General Taylor had rested the men, he formed his line 
and slowly advanced to meet them. They opened their fire from 
three batteries, each of three guns (some twelve pounders and some 
six pounders), which was immediately answered by our two batteries 
of field artillery (six pounders), and from two eighteen pounders 
which we were carrying to arm the fort with. The cannonading 
commenced at half-past two and continued till after dark (seven p. m.), 
with the exception of about three-quarters of an hour, when it ceased, 
owing to the prairie having taken fire, which concealed us from each 
other. During the cannonading the enemy's cavalry made several 
ineffectual attempts to charge our lines, and made a demonstration 
upon our train. Each time they were met by our squares coolly, 
and repulsed with heavy loss. Unfortunately for us, our train was 
a complete incubus to us. The General was obliged to make his 
dispositions to defend it; we had nothing but infantry and artillery 
(only two hundred cavalry), while the enemy had some twenty-five 
hundred (regular and irregular) horse. The affair was therefore one 
of artillery only, as our infantry had to maintain their position around 
the train, for fear if they advanced the cavalry would attack it, in 
our rear. Our fellows behaved with the greatest gallantry, never 
flinching under the heavy fire of the enemy, whose artillery was 
well served, though, as I had anticipated, the superiority of our bat- 
teries was most fully demonstrated. Night closed with our driving 
the enemy back so far as to place us on the ground they occupied 
when the action commenced. Many and various were the surmises 
as to the result. Some supposed the enemy had got the worst of it, 
but all fully expected to renew the contest the next morning. Both 



80 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

armies encamped in sight of each other, every man just lying on the 
ground where he stood, and glad to sleep from fatigue. Our force 
was about two thousand; the enemy's, since ascertained, three thou- 
sand regular infantry and artillery, one thousand regular cavalry and 
two thousand irregular troops, making in all six thousand men. Our 
loss in killed and wounded about fifty; the enemy's, from information 
since obtained, many hundreds. I was in the action during the 
whole time, at the side of General Taylor, and communicating his 
orders, and I assure you I may justly say I have had my "bapteme 
de feu." An officer of the General's staff had his horse shot under 
him, not two yards from me, and some five horses and men were 
killed at various times right close to me. Major Ringgold, I regret 
to say, is seriously wounded, but it is supposed will recover — in fact, 
is doing very well. Some three other officers were wounded; but you 
will have the official accounts before long, to which I refer you. 

The enemy behaved very badly under our fire, as we ascertain 
from a prisoner taken this morning that our fire was so galling they 
deserted by battalions, and were only restrained by their officers 
shooting them from running en masse; and had we charged them 
just at the close, we should have routed them in toto. But, unfortu- 
nately, the fear of exposing our train, and the smoke from the burning 
prairie preventing us from seeing the impression our artillery was 
making, deterred the General from ordering the charge. 

This morning at daybreak we arose, expecting to go at it again, 
but on advancing towards the wood presumed to be occupied by the 
enemy, we found they had given us the slip during the night. We 
then examined the battle-field, and found it covered with their poor 
fellows and horses, with boxes of ammunition and all kinds of plunder 
left in their hasty retreat; and from some wounded men brought in, 
we ascertained that General Arista, who commanded in person, was 
unable to keep his men on the ground after the terrible galling fire 
our artillery gave them. As soon as General Taylor found they had 
retreated, he left his train under protection of three hundred drivers, 
all of whom were armed, and some fifty of our men, with the two 
eighteen pounders, being confident they could with this force resist 
any attack of cavalry or infantry (and their artillery they had carried 
with them), and he then pushed on with the rest, some nineteen hun- 
dred men, to force them across the river. From the Palo Alto to the 
river there is a thicket called in this country Chaparral, which is 
almost impassable when you are off the road, and which consists of 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 81 

thick thorny bushes, that tear your clothes to pieces in trying to get 
through them. After passing this, till we came within two miles of 
the river, a heavy discharge of grape was fired into our advance, 
showing the enemy still disputed our march. The General ordered 
up his artillery, threw out his infantry on the right and left, and after 
several discharges from our batteries, charged their batteries (also 
in the road) with our cavalry, and charged the bushes with the in- 
fantry; the result of which was that, after contesting the ground for 
some time, they gave way in all directions, and there was a total 
rout of the Grand Mexican Army that was going to eat us up. We 
captured seven pieces of artillery, all their pack-mules, several hun- 
dred in number, all their ammunition, several hundred stand of arms, 
and all their baggage. Took one general, two colonels, several cap- 
tains and subalterns and some one hundred and fifty men, prisoners; 
and it is supposed it will take all day to-morrow to bring in their 
dead and wounded off the field, as the ground is said to be literally 
strewn with them. We pursued them to the river, and had the grati- 
fication of seeing our flag waving in triumph over our little field-work, 
and all the officers in it safe, except its gallant commander, Major 
Brown, who died from a wound received from the bursting of a 
shell. 

The affair of to-day lasted from one to four o'clock, and proved 
the superiority of our infantry, as that of yesterday did of our artil- 
lery. We have whipped them in the open plain, and we have done 
so in the bushes, and I now believe the war will soon be ended. We 
have made a terrible impression on them, routed their army, which 
they cannot reorganize, all with our own gallant little force, without 
assistance, and in a few days we shall have reinforcements, which 
will enable us to advance into their country and dictate terms to 
them. No troops could have behaved better than have ours both 
yesterday and to-day. Our loss to-day is four officers killed, many 
wounded; the number of men I cannot tell, as the returns have not 
yet come in; indeed, the ground has not yet been searched. I am 
writing to you from the field of battle, as there is an express to start 
to-morrow, and I wish to apprise you of my safety, and to ask your 
thanks may be returned to God for preserving me through all. I 
only dwell now on the brilliant result of our efforts, and trust they 
will be appreciated. I cannot write you more. Tell mother of my 
safety, and let Major Bache see this, if in town. Say also to him 
that poor Blake, of ours, after having gallantly borne himself through 



82 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

the conflict yesterday, unfortunately shot himself accidentally to-day, 
just as we marched, and it is feared the wound is mortal. Send in 
word to Mrs. Craig that the Major is safe and sound, though I saw 
some few balls spinning about his position. He has written, but for 
fear his letter might miscarry, I want this message sent. 

Camp at La Resaca de la Palm a, May 11, 1846. 

I have been so much engaged with my duties as to have prevented 
me from writing anything since my last letter, in which I gave you 
an account of our great victory. 

The scene of yesterday, the day after the battle, was most mel- 
ancholy, and I spare you the description of it. Suffice it to say, we 
collected the dead and wounded of both armies, burying the former 
and doing everything to alleviate the sufferings of the latter, making 
no distinction between Mexicans and Americans. A survey of the 
field of action, and of the country between this and the river, proves 
that the Mexicans were totally and entirely routed, and the defeat 
could not have been more complete, except we had not the men to 
pursue the fugitives and make prisoners. We now ascertain that all 
the energies of the Mexican Government have been concentrated on 
this movement, and we have broken them up entirely. If, now, we 
only had the means of crossing the river, Matamoras would be ours; 
but, alas, General Taylor's repeated demands on the Government, 
and by it made to Congress, to send us a pontoon train, for bridges, 
have not been answered up to this date, and the enemy having care- 
fully guarded and taken on their own side all the boats for many 
miles up and down the river, we are unable to cross ! To-be-sure, it 
is to be said that we would do wrong to cross, were it not certain they 
would offer no resistance; but so certain are we of the great impres- 
sion we have made on them, that I feel sure, were our little force to 
show themselves before the town, it would be immediately aban- 
doned, and we should have nothing to do but to march in. 

The beauty of the thing then would be that we had completed 
the whole thing, with our own force, without assistance, and when 
we were only expected to take possession of some point and defend it. 

However, as it is, we will be in the town in a few days, and, I 
think, without any resistance. 

The enemy's loss is tremendous. Their officers acknowledge los- 
ing four hundred killed and wounded, on the eighth, and we already 
have buried one hundred of their men here, where the affair of the 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 83 

ninth came off, and we have some fifty wounded officers and men. 
But I must refer you to our official reports, which will show you the 
number of killed and wounded on both sides, and quantity of prop- 
erty we have taken possession of. 

It will make you happy I know to hear of so brilliant an affair, 
and of your good husband having had a share in it. I assure you it 
consoles me for all I have suffered during the last nine months, and 
I can now show my face with something to sustain me when I return 
to Philadelphia. I want to see Matamoras taken, our steamboats 
established on the river, and every preparation made for advancing 
into their country. Then we shall have done more than we came 
here for. 

I have but little time to devote to you, as I am ordered to make a 
sketch of the field of battle. So I must conclude by telling you I 
am perfectly well in every respect. 

Camp opposite Matamokas, May 15, 1846. 

Here we are in our old camp, masters of everything around us, 
and with the road to our depot perfectly clear. I trust you will re- 
ceive my previous letters in time to prevent any unnecessary alarm 
from the thousand wild and extravagant rumors which I see by the 
papers from New Orleans have been put in circulation. It appears 
as if only the timid in our camp have deigned to enlighten the press, 
for they have every place taken, and our condition was represented 
as truly deplorable. 

We all congratulate ourselves heartily in having done everything 
without any assistance whatever, and we now trust the country 
will look upon the army in a more favorable light, and be disposed 
to award to them some little efficiency. 

It is now rendered beyond a doubt that the Mexicans had in the 
affair of the eighth between six and seven thousand men, while we 
had but two thousand, and on the ninth they had six thousand, we 
having only one thousand seven hundred. Their rout was total, 
and nothing saved the destruction of their entire army but the ap- 
proach of night and the nature of the country, a dense thicket, which 
enabled them to disperse and reach the river during the night. The 
Mexican officers acknowledge the loss by killed and wounded to be 
one thousand two hundred on their side; then some three hundred 
were drowned in crossing the river, and between one and two thou- 
sand have deserted them, thus leaving them with only about four 



84 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

thousand in Matamoras. Could we have crossed the river on the 
tenth, the town would have been ours without a shot, but the neces- 
sity of recruiting our people, and the want of means to cross, pre- 
vented us, and it is not improbable that they may have recuperated 
so far as to induce them to make a stand. 

But while their forces are diminishing, ours are daily increasing. 
Already six hundred regulars and volunteers have arrived, and in- 
formation has been received that ten thousand volunteers are being 
raised and will be here in a few weeks, making our force fully twelve 
thousand efficient men. Now, if two thousand routed seven thou- 
sand, how many will twelve thousand rout; you can establish the 
proportion, and I trust the result will remove from your mind any 
apprehension of my safety, inasmuch as it is a perfect impossibility 
that the Mexican Government can raise one-half the number re- 
quired by the answer. 

We shall to-morrow cross the river some few miles above here 
and invest the town, at the same time summoning them to surrender. 
In the event of their refusal, we shall open our batteries, consisting 
of six eighteen-pounders, four twelve-pounders, eight nine-pounders, 
and twelve six-pounders, and two ten-inch mortars, and if we do 
not soon make them change their minds, I shall be very much mis- 
taken. At the same time we shall cut off all their supplies from the 
interior and starve them out. 

The town must fall or be knocked to pieces, and I think the in- 
habitants will compel the soldiers to evacuate it, rather than stand 
the bombardment. We have now a chance to return the compli- 
ments they paid to our fort, called Fort Brown (in honor of its gallant 
commander, who fell while defending it), in which, during the seven 
days we were absent, they threw one thousand shells, and, strange 
to say, they only killed one sergeant and the commander, Major 
Brown. You will regret to hear poor Ringgold died of his wounds. 
This makes nine officers killed and eleven wounded so far. Our loss 
on the eighth and ninth amounts to one hundred and eighty-two 
killed and wounded, being about one-twelfth of those engaged, said 
to be large, but most trifling in comparison with that of the Mexicans. 

I cannot as yet anticipate the future. The opinion of some is 
that they cannot recuperate, but I am disposed to believe they will 
try it again; but as I feel confident the result will be the same, I 
think then they will be ready to negotiate and compromise matters. 
Indeed, I do not think the war will now be of many months' duration, 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 85 

and I begin to hope I shall yet be with you by the fall, should it please 
God to spare me that long. 

By-the-by, I saw the other day Harry Ingersoll, who came up to 
our camp with despatches from Commodore Connor, who heard at 
Vera Cruz such statements of the preparations of Mexico against 
General Taylor, that he felt it his duty to bring his squadron to give 
us the assistance of his men. But, luckily, the game was finished 
ere he arrived. Ingersoll was quite well. 

Matamoras, May 19, 1846. 

Our army yesterday crossed the Rio Bravo (or Grande) and took 
possession of this place, without firing a gun, General Arista, with 
five thousand men and fourteen pieces of artillery, having precipi- 
tately abandoned the town the previous night at twelve o'clock, fear- 
ing the consequences of making any resistance. For, notwithstand- 
ing he had one well-constructed fort, and has had ample time to 
throw up intrenchments, and had a town constructed of brick and 
stone houses, in the solid manner of the Spaniards, which determined 
men could have held against three times their numbers, the impres- 
sion we have made upon them is so severe, he dared not, or probably 
could not, induce his people to try to defend the place. 

The last accounts we had of him he was thirty miles from here, 
in full retreat for Monterey, some two hundred and fifty miles from 
here, at the foot of the mountains. I do not think they will be able 
to organize another army to meet us on this frontier, and I fear we 
shall be obliged to invade their territory to come within reach of them. 
This will compel us to march some three hundred miles, over a coun- 
try which does not contain in itself the means of supplying an army, 
and where we shall have to carry everything with us. Still I have 
no fears for the result. We shall beat them wherever we meet them, 
and in whatever numbers. I believe now, if a chance were offered 
them, they would negotiate and settle all difficulties. Indeed, the 
day before we crossed the river, General Arista sent an officer to 
General Taylor, who proposed to deliver up to him all the artillery 
and munitions of war in the town if he would not cross, and propos- 
ing an armistice until Mexico could be communicated with; intimat- 
ing the Supreme Government would now be willing to compromise. 
General Taylor replied the time had passed for an armistice; he had 
offered one a few weeks ago — they had refused it, and had com- 
menced the war — they must now take the consequences. He had 



86 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

the means and the force to take the place, and the place he must 
have, and he left it to them to decide whether it should be done at 
the expense of life and property or not. They chose the latter alterna- 
tive, and retreated, and if we only had a cavalry force, such as we 
ought to have, we could have pursued and taken the whole of them. 

I do not think any plans are yet decided on for our future move- 
ments. The General will collect here and organize the large volun- 
teer force sent from Louisiana and Texas, which, when it all gets 
here, will swell our force to over ten thousand men. By that time, 
probably, definite instructions will come from Washington by which 
he will be guided. 

We have all been very much disappointed in the appearance of 
the town; decidedly the most pleasing view of it is from the other 
side. It is built in the Spanish fashion — low houses with flat roofs 
— but has evidently been on the decline for many years, as a majority 
of the houses are decayed and falling to pieces. It is almost entirely 
abandoned by the better part of the community, and those in it now 
are the most miserable-looking beings you ever saw; and as to the 
black-eyed senoras we all longed to see, we find nothing but old hags, 
worse looking than Indians. So you may rest easy, notwithstanding 
Master John's insinuations against me. 

General Taylor would not occupy the town, but has encamped 
outside of it, and only allows a certain number of the men to go in 
at a time. He has a patrol on duty night and day, to pick up any 
of our people who are disorderly, and as yet not one injury has been 
committed on person or property. 

I have been in the saddle all day, making a reconnoissance of the 
environs of the town, with a view to select suitable sites for encamp- 
ments and for the defence of the place. Indeed, I am kept going all 
the time, and to this activity do I attribute my very good health. 
The weather is warm, but not so disagreeable as it is in Philadelphia 
at this season, as we always have a fine breeze. 

Congratulate the Major (I mean Bache) for me on his return 
home. Say to him I wish sincerely he were here. There is a fine 
field for him, and I feel confident he would have a most eminent 
position. 

I forgot to mention we lost yesterday a fine officer, Lieutenant 
Stevens, of the Dragoons, who was drowned in swimming his horse 
across the river. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 87 

Camp at Mat amok as, May 24, 1846. 

Your first query is in regard to General Worth. By this time 
you are doubtless au fait as to his movements, but as reports are so 
vague, I will concisely state the case, which I should have done be- 
fore, did I deem you would have taken any interest in it. 

By law there are only allowed in the army one major-general, 
two brigadier-generals, as many colonels as regiments and corps, etc. 
But there is a fictitious rank, as it were, called brevet rank, by which 
the President and Senate have power to confer promotion on indi- 
viduals for gallantry, which rank takes effect, or is available, only 
under certain circumstances. 

General Worth is only a colonel in the infantry (the Eighth 
Regiment), but in consequence of his meritorious services in Florida 
he had conferred on him the brevet rank of brigadier-general. Now 
the question which has agitated the army has been, " When does this 
rank take effect?" The laws upon the subject are conflicting and 
obscure. One party, the officers of regiments, or as they are called, 
of the line, contend it only does so when the President specially as- 
signs an officer to duty with it, as in the case of General Taylor, who, 
similarly situated to General Worth, is only Colonel of the Sixth 
Infantry, and brigadier-general by brevet. But the President as- 
signed him to the command of this army as a brigadier-general, and 
of course he ranks all brigadier-generals of the militia, and all of the 
army, of junior date to himself. The opposite party contend that 
it not only takes effect in the above case, but also in all cases where 
two corps of the army (such for instance as a regiment of artillery 
and one of infantry) are serving together. Now, Colonel Twiggs, 
commanding the dragoons, is a senior colonel to Worth, but has no 
brevet. The question then arose who would command in case of the 
death of General Taylor, and after much discussion and excitement, 
numerous petitions were sent to the President and Congress, and 
finally the President made a decision adverse to the brevet. Now, 
General Worth asserted that when he came here he was given to 
understand he should have the command, did anything happen to 
General Taylor, and the decision of the President, adverse to his 
claim, without assigning him specially, as he might have done, and 
thus make him second in command, he construed into an act of per- 
sonal injustice of so grave a character as to compel him to leave the 
service. He therefore resigned his commission, and obtained a 
leave of two months to go to Washington and insist on his resignation 



88 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

being accepted. At the time he did so there was no certainty of 
war, though great probability, and I believe his real intention was 
to endeavor at Washington to obtain the special assignment, placing 
him as a brevet. I think the step he took was most ill-judged and 
unfortunate. His duty as a soldier should have induced him to re- 
main at his post in any capacity, however inferior, till all prospect 
of war had passed, and then he could have taken steps to relieve 
himself from what he deemed an indignity. But you must know 
that though a most excellent officer in some respects, General Worth 
has the great misfortune of being most rash and impetuous, and of 
constantly doing things which cooler reflection causes him to repent. 
This infirmity, in my opinion, renders him unfit to command, but on 
the field of battle, under another, his gallantry and bravery are well 
known and most conspicuous, and any service requiring these qual- 
ities, entrusted to him, will most undoubtedly be brilliantly executed. 
Upon this occasion he soon repented of his false step, and on arriving 
at Washington and finding affairs changed, he applied to withdraw 
his resignation, did so, and returned to-day, and is now on the ground, 
a simple colonel, no better off than when he left here, and having 
lost two occasions when, if present, he would have had an opportunity 
of meeting the enemy. I trust, however, the Government, after 
leaving him in his present position for a reasonable time, will give 
him his special assignment of brigadier-general, as a large militia 
force is coming into the field, and we shall require all the rank in the 
regular service we can raise, in order to keep these gentlemen-volun- 
teers from taking the command. 

I think my last letter was written after the occupation of Mata- 
moras, which was most peaceably effected, General Arista having re- 
tired in the night, with his whole force, some four thousand men and 
fourteen pieces of artillery. All our disposable mounted force — one 
hundred and fifty dragoons and fifty volunteers — was sent in pursuit 
of them, to watch their movements and pick up stragglers. It reports 
that at first Arista's march was most disorderly, but as he receded he 
was able to organize better the command. It pursued them nearly 
sixty miles, and overtook the rear guard, which it attacked, killing 
five or six, and bringing in some twenty-five prisoners; by this time 
General Arista is in the mountains and out of our reach. 

There are rumors in town of the advance of a force of five thousand 
men, under Bustamente, to reinforce Arista, but I very much fear 
there is no such good luck in store for us as the reappearance of a 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 89 

Mexican army in this neighborhood, or anywhere this side of the 
Sierra Madre. 

I think if they were foolish enough to undertake such an enter- 
prise, their total defeat would end the war, and we would be spared 
the long march to Monterey. Another report also current in the town 
is that the soldiers were so exasperated against Arista for their defeat, 
accusing him of selling them to General Taylor, that when about 
fifty miles from here they rose en masse, determined to sacrifice him 
at the point of the bayonet, but their generals interceded on their 
knees for him, and his life was spared, but he was carried along as a 
prisoner. This may or may not be true; certain it is Arista is a 
ruined man; from being one of the most prominent in this part of 
Mexico, he is now universally abused. Do you remember I told you 
on his arrival he would either play into our hands, or throw himself 
into the arms of the Paredes party, in which latter case we should 
have war? Well, it has so turned out. Private letters from Paredes 
to him have been found among his papers, in which Paredes black- 
guards Almonte, says he sent him to France to get rid of him, and 
speaks of Santa Anna's party, and his measures to put them down. 
Now, it is notorious Arista was originally opposed to Paredes, and 
resigned his command on his accession to power. He must therefore 
have been bought off, to produce so great a change. 

By-the-by, did I tell you I gave my name and address in Phila- 
delphia to General La Vega, captured on the ninth, and told him your 
father and all your family could speak Spanish, and begged him to 
go see you if he passed through Philadelphia? You will find him a 
most gentlemanly man and will be pleased, I am sure, with him. 

Four pieces of artillery, a large quantity of ammunition and pub- 
lic stores of all kinds, have been found secreted in the town. Gen- 
eral Taylor, understanding that tobacco was a Government monopoly, 
seized all the tobacco at the Government depots in the town and dis- 
tributed it among the men. This is the only prize of any kind that 
officer or man has received, though there was an immense quantity 
of public and private property taken, after the affair of the ninth. 

May 25. 

Nothing additional this morning of much interest. The search 

of the town is being continued, and all kinds of public stores are 

being rooted out of wells, of the river, and houses in all parts of the 

town. The people say Arista and his army are completely used up, 



90 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

and that the Mexicans cannot make any stand this side of the Sierra 
Madre; so you may make your mind easy for some time to come yet. 

To-day General Smith 1 arrived from New Orleans with about 
fifteen hundred men. Among the officers of his staff I found young 
Trudeau, from New Orleans. I do not know his christian name, but 
he told me he was of the same family as had lived in Philadelphia. 
Mason Graham, from Washington, has also come as a captain, and 
I believe almost everybody is coming — Bailie Peyton as a colonel, 
and Tom, Dick and Harry as majors, captains and privates. We 
shall be overrun, and I fear have too many for any practicable pur- 
poses; for we have now, and cannot increase it, only a limited supply 
of transportation, and sending too many men at this moment may 
have the effect of impeding the movements of all. 

I will try to write often, but have so much to do that at night 
when I come home I am so fatigued that I think of nothing but going 
to sleep. You may probably ask, "What have you to do?" Well, 
after the battles I had to make surveys of each field; then I had to 
reconnoitre the river, eight miles above and five miles below our 
camp, to select a crossing place; and as soon as we entered Mata- 
moras, instead of squatting down, as the rest have done, for a few 
days' quiet, I was immediately required to make an exact survey of 
the town and the adjacent country for one and a half miles. Upon 
this I am at present engaged. 

Camp at Mat amor as, May 27, 1846. 

I have been assiduously engaged in making the survey of the 
town, and have to-day finished the field work, and shall commence 
to-morrow the drawing, which will without doubt occupy a week. I 
rise early in the morning with the dawn, and after breakfasting, 
start out on foot with a party of five men and trace out the roads 
leading from the town, each for several miles. In this manner I 
have been led to stop at many houses, and whenever I find a pretty 
girl I begin talking Spanish, asking for water, the name of the road, 
etc., etc. This is purely, I assure you, from a desire to acquire the 
language, which I find not difficult. I am fully convinced now that 
if I had only prosecuted my studies under you for a few weeks, and 
acquired some knowledge of the construction of the language, and 
of verbs, adjectives, etc., I could speak it in a very short time. 

You must not be concerned about the pretty girls, for I will 

1 Brigadier-General Persifor F. Smith, U. S. Volunteers. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 91 

frankly confess as yet I have seen but one sufficiently good looking 
to stop me, and she evinced no disposition to cultivate my acquaint- 
ance. 

The volunteers continue to pour in, and I regret to say I do not 
see it with much satisfaction. They are perfectly ignorant of dis- 
cipline, and most restive under restraint. They are in consequence 
a most disorderly mass, who will give us, I fear, more trouble than the 
enemy. Already are our guard-houses filled daily with drunken officers 
and men, who go to the town, get drunk and commit outrages on the 
citizens. Head-quarters are unfortunately situated on the bank of 
the river, just opposite the camp of one of these gallant regiments, 
but notwithstanding the positive order of General Taylor and of 
their own officers, that no firing is to be allowed in camp, they come 
down in crowds to the bank of the river opposite to us and discharge 
their pieces right across, and the bullets come whizzing by us as thick 
as in an action, and I really consider spending a day in my tent, unin- 
jured, equivalent to passing through a well-contested action. 

There is no use in giving them orders; they will not obey them, 
and they will in consequence waste more ammunition in a few weeks' 
idleness at this place than the regulars have wasted since their arrival 
at Corpus Christi last summer, including both battles. This is the 
miserable economy of our Government. It will not keep a regular 
army in proportion to our population and frontier, and equivalent 
to the wants of the country, for fear of the expense, yet six months 
of this volunteer force will cost as much as five years for a regular 
force of equal size. 

Had the United States had in service twenty thousand men, in- 
stead of five thousand (our present army), it could have sent a force 
of good, disciplined soldiers, say fifteen thousand, to this country, 
who would have followed up the results of our victories, and ere this 
the war would have been finished. As it is, we shall have some twenty 
or thirty thousand irregulars, whose usefulness may well be doubted, 
from past experience and present appearances, and at an expense 
sufficient to have maintained the regular force for many years. 
However, there is no use in wasting time and paper in arguing a 
point that must be evident to all rational persons. 

The great question is now, What is going to be done? General 
Taylor, I believe, waits for instructions from Washington, though he 
is making his arrangements as rapidly as possible to carry out his 
own plans, in the event of not being instructed. 



92 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

The papers by the last mail bring us the intelligence of the action 
of Congress, the President's proclamation, the rumor that thirty 
thousand men are to be sent here, and some say General Scott to 
command them. Unfortunately the mail-rider from Point Isabel 
lost his mail yesterday, and it is said to be the most important 
mail ever sent to us, as it contains all this information in official 
documents. Parties have been sent to look for it and I trust it 
may yet be recovered. 

The first thing we have to do is to collect here the means for sub- 
sisting a large force, and for transporting their baggage and sub- 
sistence into the interior. This will require several steamboats to 
navigate the river and the purchase of a large number of wagons 
with mules, and mules to pack. 

I send you a little rough sketch of the seat of proposed operations, 
in order that you may understand what I am writing about. 

The various places on the river between this and Mier, namely, 
Reinosa and Camargo, will have to be occupied and garrisoned. 
Then from Camargo, or this place, or both, columns can be advanced 
into the interior and the country occupied to Monterey and Victoria; 
then an expedition sent to Tampico, and occupying that place, we 
shall have the whole country to the foot of the Sierra Madre, a chain 
of mountains beginning at Tampico and extending by Victoria, 
Monterey, to the Presidio de Rio Grande, a town on the river. This 
occupation, with a strict blockade of both coasts of Mexico, and the 
gaining of another victory, will bring Mexico to terms. All this will 
be done in four months, and then, should it please God to spare me 
through it, I expect to be on my way home. 

May 28. 
I find by your letter of the thirteenth the alarm had reached 
Philadelphia, and as a matter of course you were in an unhappy state 
of anxiety. The papers, as I imagined, have been filled with the 
most false and exaggerated rumors, rendering our position much 
more precarious than we ever thought it to be, though I frankly 
acknowledge we had no reason to anticipate such brilliant success 
as it pleased Heaven to grant to our arms. We knew the Mexicans 
were in overwhelming force, had no accurate information of their 
exact numbers, and though we felt all confidence in our means of 
resistance, yet the boldest heart was obliged to admit the chances 
of war might be against us. I never entertained any apprehension 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 93 

for Point Isabel. At first I considered General Taylor had made a 
mistake in ever leaving the place without making its defenses com- 
plete; but at that time few really believed the Mexicans intended 
seriously to fight. After we ascertained their determination, which 
we did on the arrival of General Arista, and the capture of Thornton, 
then Point Isabel was so far fortified as to render it in my estimation 
good against the Mexicans, and since we have met them and know 
their power, I consider it to have been impregnable. We never were 
in want of supplies, always having had an abundance. On the 1st 
instant, when we left our camp to go to Point Isabel, we had in camp 
ten days* supplies for the whole army, which could have been spun 
out into twenty days, by which time the reinforcements would have 
arrived. 

But General Taylor, as well as the whole army, was anxious to 
try our strength before the volunteers should come, knowing how 
much our reputation depended on so doing. Indeed, I see the Texans, 
who, by-the-by, have shown great backwardness in coming to our 
supposed relief, give as the reason they had whipped five and three 
to one, and were confident General Taylor could whip a larger pro- 
portion. Had we then avoided a conflict, and after circumstances 
established the ratio that now exists, three to one, we should have 
been ruined as an army and very probably disbanded. General 
Taylor therefore left his camp opposite Matamoras, with his army 
(leaving a regiment and thirty days' provisions for the garrison in 
the fort), ostensibly for the purpose of bringing back more supplies 
of ammunition and provisions, but really to give the enemy an oppor- 
tunity to oppose us if they desired one, and as I wrote you from Point 
Isabel, on the 3d instant, we were disappointed in not meeting them 
going down, as we had a small baggage train only and would have 
been unencumbered in the battle. On our return, when they met 
us, we had two hundred wagons, which acted as an anchor to us, 
preventing us from advancing on the field, for fear of leaving the 
train exposed to attacks in the rear. This it was which compelled 
us to stand a five hours' cannonading, instead of charging and rout- 
ing them the first day. This, however, I think I have explained to 
you before in previous letters. Indeed, I think, with my letters and 
the official reports, you will be able to understand all about our 
operations. 

I am sure you will, like myself, find in the pleasant excitement of 
victory and safety ample consolation for previous misery. Such is 



94 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

war and its terrible consequences. For my part I have no hesita- 
tion in saying I have no stomach for it. I trust I shall always do my 
duty, from a stern sense of the propriety of assisting in the defense 
of my country, and giving my services to a Government by which I 
have been supported when there were no risks to run. But I candidly 
acknowledge I have no penchant for it; nothing but a sense of duty 
would keep me in it. 

Fighting is the least part of the duty, and the least arduous. 
Look at our little army here. Ever since last August in the field, 
exposed to the vicissitudes of a trying climate, without proper pro- 
tection from the weather, or shelter from the storms, harassed and 
almost broken down by continued marches over a country almost a 
desert, without wood or water; and in all this time they have only 
had eight hours' fighting, five one day and three the next. Now 
what tires the soldier is the previous fatigues and hardships he must 
endure ere he has an opportunity to repay himself by glory. 

Had the Mexicans not attacked us, or had they compromised the 
question after our arrival, so as to have had no fighting, who would 
have given us credit for all that you know we have gone through? 
And how many would have known even that we were here? But a 
small proportion, I assure you, of those who now are willing to give 
us credit, and yet in truth I would rather take my chance in four 
battles than wait a year without any! 

Some two thousand volunteers are here already, but they had 
hardly been on the ground three days before the men began to mutiny 
at their legitimate duty. Gentlemen from Louisiana, owning planta- 
tions and negroes, came here as common soldiers, and then revolt at 
the idea of drawing their own water and cutting their own wood, and 
in fact, they expect the regulars, who have to take care of themselves, 
to play waiters to them. 

No, soldiering is no play, and those who undertake it must make 
up their minds to hard times and hard knocks. 

Your letter of the thirteenth I consider a perfect model, and so 
delighted have I been with the good sense and firmness displayed in 
it, that I have read it to two or three of my friends in the camp, as 
showing what a heroine you are, and how rationally you have written, 
even when your mind was fully alive to all the danger I was in. They 
all expressed themselves in the most complimentary manner of you, 
and of your dear father's sound and cool judgment, when all others 
could see nothing but alarm, perceiving, as it were, with an eagle's 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 95 

eye the cloud of confused reports and vague rumors, and seizing upon 
the true state of the case, that we were well supplied with provisions, 
in fortified lines, and not in any more dangerous position than people 
always are who are so foolish as to meddle with war and its attendant 
consequences. 

By the time this reaches you, you will be wanting more excitement. 

I have also a letter from my good friend Israel Pemberton, whom 
I am glad to see back in Philadelphia. Tell him I was much gratified 
with his letter, and shall answer it immediately. In the meantime 
say John is safe and sound, that he was at Point Isabel, attached to 
Major Munroe's Company, but on our going down on the 1st instant, 
he had the good fortune to be transferred to one of the marching 
companies, and was in both actions, and on the second day, the ninth, 
was in the advance, which first received the fire of the enemy, and 
which was the whole time in the thickest of the fight. John had a 
ball pass through his hat, which castor he will doubtless preserve 
with care in memory of the day. Say he is well and hearty, in tol- 
erable spirits, but his time all taken up in writing, as he says, to his 
girl, whom he is most desperately anxious to see, a feeling I can readily 
appreciate and most sincerely sympathize with. 

Your friend * * * has been at St. Joseph's Island all the time 
since we left. Entre nous, his day for field-service is past. He has 
what the wags call "prevaricating veins" in his legs, which prevent 
him from riding or walking, and he was left at St. Joseph's in charge 
of the camp women and baggage. Ramsey is in fine health and fine 
spirits. 

The papers by the last mail tell us General Scott is coming, and 
the President is going to send thirty thousand men. Heaven only 
knows what they will do with them, or how they are to be subsisted ! 
It will be fine times for the pork merchants in Cincinnati. 

The last accounts from Arista are that he has halted about a 
hundred miles from here and not yet entered the mountains. This 
may be a ruse of his to attract us in that direction and then get out 
of our way, as the road he has taken strikes the mountains between 
Monterey and Tampico, and is badly supplied with wood and water, 
and is decidedly disadvantageous for us to operate on. In a few 
days I presume we shall have force enough, and the means of trans- 
portation, to commence our march up the river and occupy Reinosa 
and the Camargo. This latter place will be made the great depot, 
and our operations carried on from there. I am anxious to be up 



96 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

there, for the hot season is rapidly approaching, and I believe the 
higher up you get the healthier it is. 

I trust you will keep up your spirits to the last. I really think 
now that four months will settle the affair with Mexico, unless Eng- 
land sides with her, in which event we shall have a war such as the 
world has not seen for many years; one of antagonistic principles, 
in which all the nations of Europe must take a part, and in which 
every able-bodied man in our country will have to bear his share. If 
that is coming, the sooner the better, and then it makes but little 
difference where I am, for I should not be allowed to live quietly 
with you, and I would just as soon meet British troops on the plains 
of Tamaulipas as on those of Canada. I trust, however, England 
has yet too much good sense to enter upon an unnecessary war, one 
where no point of honor or of vital interest is concerned. She ought 
to know, however great her temporary success may be, that in the 
end she must suffer. It is too late in the day to conquer or subdue 
us. As a people we are rising, and she has arrived at her zenith, and 
her safest plan is to keep on good terms with us, if she can do so 
without loss of honor. 

Camp at Matamoras, Mexico, 

June 3, 1846. 

Since the date of my last letter but little has occurred worthy of 
remark. The army still continues quiet in its camp around the town. 
The volunteers continue to pour in from Louisiana, which State has 
really exerted herself most handsomely to come to our supposed 
rescue. I think I mentioned in my last letter that among her Vol- 
unteers I had met young Trudeau, the son of the friend of your fam- 
ily. He is the one who was intended by his father for the Navy, at 
the time of the anticipated French war, and who afterwards studied 
law in Joseph R. Ingersoll's office. He recollected you perfectly, 
and seemed quite pleased to meet me. I have met him quite often, 
and find him very much of a gentleman. Mr. Wise's 1 friend, Bailie 
Peyton, is also here in command of a regiment, but as his force is not 
stationed at this place, I have had no opportunity of making his 
acquaintance. 

We have recent intelligence to-day from the Mexican army. It 
was obliged, from fatigue and other causes, to halt at Linares, a small 
town at the foot of the Sierra Madre, about half-way between Tam- 

1 Henry A. Wise, brother-in-law of Mrs. Meade. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 97 

pico and Monterey. Here an epidemic, in the shape of a typhoid 
fever, had broken out among them, and one general, a General 
Garcia, together with a great many men, had died. General Terrejone 
was said to be dying, and what with disease and desertion the force 
was reduced from four to one thousand men. It was also reported 
that, in consequence of the intrigues of Ampudia, Arista had been 
arrested by the troops and sent to the City of Mexico, upon the 
charge of having sold them to General Taylor. Another report 
stated that Arista had arrested Ampudia, on the charge of desertion, 
on the ninth, and had despatched him to Mexico. We do not know 
what confidence to place in these reports, but their existence evidently 
proves the total disorganization of the enemy, and their inability to 
meet us for some time. 

You must not entertain any apprehension for our health, from 
the reported sickness of the Mexicans. They are but poorly clothed, 
entirely without protection from the weather, fed only on fresh beef 
and corn, and marched to death. Such treatment, of course, will 
break down the hardest troops; and then their surgeons are for the 
most part quacks, who are unable to give them the treatment their 
disease requires. The state of affairs with us is quite different. 
Our men are well fed and clothed, and comparatively protected from 
the weather. The consequence is that our sick list is quite small, 
and I trust we shall get through the summer without much disease. 

I enclose you the first number of a paper just published in town 
by a Texan of the name of McLeod, a classmate of mine at West 
Point, who, on leaving that institution, resigned his commission in 
the army and went to Texas, where he has figured prominently since 
as a military man, politician and newspaper editor. I do not know 
what the general feeling is with regard to his paper in the camp, but 
for myself, I consider it most pernicious, and were I in General 
Taylor's place, I would order it stopped. His address to the people 
will only tend to inflame them against us, and will give an oppor- 
tunity to Mexico to appeal to foreign nations to rescue her from im- 
pending destruction. Now, as his sentiments are simply those of a 
private individual, unauthorized by the authorities, being written 
and published and distributed right under the eye of the commanding 
general, they will be quoted as the opinions of the army and Govern- 
ment of the United States, and used accordingly. 

Information has been received of the coming of General Scott, 
but it is reported he will not be here before September. 



98 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

June 7. 

I send you the second number of the paper established in Mata- 
moras, since our occupation of the town. I think its general tone 
meets with the disapprobation of the greater portion of the army, 
but General Taylor does not think it worth while to interfere in such 
matters, and it is in consequence suffered to go on. 

You will see by it that an advanced movement was made to-day, 
in the marching of two hundred and fifty infantry, sixty wounded 
men, and two pieces of artillery, to Reinosa, a little town on the river, 
about sixty miles from here, and about half-way to Camargo, another 
river town on this side, which is proposed as the main depot of the 
army, should we advance into the interior. This movement is made 
with a view of preparing the way for our steamboats (whenever they 
should reach here) to ascend the river and to clear the country of 
General Canales and his band of rancheros, who are said to be in the 
neighborhood of Reinosa, plundering their own people. A few days 
ago a deputation of the principal citizens of Reinosa waited on the 
General to ask his protection, inasmuch as the Mexican Government 
had deserted them, and they were in fear of the Indians. As soon 
as they had returned home, Canales seized them and threw them into 
prison, on the plea of their assisting the enemy. We look forward 
with some eagerness to the arrival of the one thousand mounted 
Texans called for, as the General will despatch them after Canales 
as soon as they arrive. 

We have received intelligence of the passage of a bill by Congress 
increasing the army to fifteen thousand men, and, in consequence, a 
number of officers have been sent from here to various parts of the 
country to recruit, so as to fill up the ranks. Some of these will go 
to Philadelphia, among others young Crittenden, of the Fifth In- 
fantry, a nephew of your father's friend, the Senator. I promised to 
give him a letter to you, but he left before I had written it. I believe 
he is an excellent young officer, though my acquaintance with him 
is quite slight; but I should like you to see an officer who had been 
in both battles, as he could give you a more minute description than 
I could do by writing. 

As I said before, I do not consider General Taylor a very dis- 
tinguished general — that is to say, professionally — but his success 
will make him so in the public eye, and the previous reports of an- 
ticipated disaster will only serve to add lustre to his victories. His 
judgment is much superior to General Worth's. Most of the reports 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 99 

you hear are erroneous. General Taylor did omit to do things which 
many considered he ought to have done, but which now turn out un- 
necessary, and I therefore doubt, if the matter had to be gone over, 
whether any one who pursued a different course would be as success- 
ful, for the want of military precautions, for which he is charged, no 
doubt had their influence in inducing the enemy to meet us in a 
pitched battle, which of all consummations was the one we most 
devoutly prayed for. In military matters, as in all things else, suc- 
cess is the grand criterion by which men are judged, and it is evident 
from the tone of the public press that General Taylor will override 
all influences brought to bear against him. 

I suppose the story of my refusing to be General Worth's Aide 
arose from my declining to leave the country when he did, and 
comes from * * *. I can account for it in no other manner, inas- 
much as I never was offered the position, and in fact am excluded 
by "regulations," which confine the appointment of aides to the 
subalterns of the line of the army. I had many discussions with 
* * * while he was here, with reference to General Worth and the 
step he was taking, and told him I considered it most ill-judged, and 
that it would require all General Worth's previous reputation for 
gallantry and good conduct to sustain him in it. It is a notorious 
fact that up to the moment he determined on leaving, he expressed 
himself openly as confident of a war; but as soon as he had made up 
his mind to go, he was willing to take General Taylor's opinion that 
there would be no fighting; and yet you will be astonished to hear 
that General Taylor used every argument he could to induce General 
Worth to remain, and even the night before he left the camp sent 
him some private information he had received of the movement of 
the Mexicans, and General Worth, after reading it, replied to the 
staff officer who carried it to him, "Sir, it only confirms me in my 
previous opinion that your gallant chief is in a most critical situation 
— more critical than his courageous heart is willing to admit." Still 
he went off, and after getting to Point Isabel and hearing of Ampudia's 
threat, he wrote to General Taylor to say, "if his services were of 
any use to him, he would return." Now, General Taylor, after the 
course pursued by General Worth, was not going to treat him as a 
spoiled child, and say one moment, "You may go," and the next, 
"Oh, you must come back; I cannot get along without you." He 
left it to the man to act for himself, and said: "I see no necessity for 
changing my opinion. You asked to go; as a friend I advised you 



100 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

against the step. You insisted; I then officially gave you permis- 
sion to retire. I have now nothing further to say, except I see no 
more necessity for your return than there was for my withholding 'per- 
mission for you to retire." That is to say, I thought when I allowed 
you to go, I could get along without you, and whether you stay or 
go is a matter you must decide for yourself. The result has proved 
we have gotten along without him. 

You must blame yourself for this infliction. I should have spared 
you any allusion to this matter of General Worth, had I not have been 
incensed by the efforts which I see have been made through the public 
press to influence opinion in General Worth's case. Hardly a paper 
about the 20th of May but has some paragraph of what General 
Worth had said or done, and one would suppose from the papers that 
he was commanding general, and not General Taylor. Many of 
them, too, utterly false, and many of them erroneous. For instance, 
"planting with his own hands the American flag on the banks of the 
Rio Grande" is a misstatement in fact, and willfully made by the 
person who put it in the papers. The idea is that General Worth 
was the first man on the river bank, and there planted with his own 
hands the Star-Spangled Banner, making as it were a coup de theatre 
of it, giving a hint to some patriotic painter for a picture, or for some 
dramatist for a scene in a national drama; whereas the facts are well 
known to me, for if you recollect I wrote you that on that day I was 
in the advanced guard and came near being taken prisoner with the 
two dragoons, and in point of fact I was the first on the river bank 
with the advanced guard, who were followed by General Taylor and 
his staff, General Worth not coming up till his brigade arrived, some 
time after the cavalry and Ringgold's battery, under Colonel Twiggs, 
and the first flag planted was by order of Colonel Belknapp, command- 
ing the Eighth Regiment of Infantry, who stuck in the ground his 
regimental flag, which is not the national flag, and this operation 
was effected by a parcel of dirty and dusty soldiers, with spades and 
axes. And it was not for an hour after our arrival that a pole was 
l found and the national flag raised on it, and you can readily imagine 
how easy it would be for General Worth to have done it with his own 
hands when I tell you the pole was over thirty feet long, and required 
a big hole to be dug ere it could be sunk, and had to be propped by 
supports, which operation required some dozen men with spades, axes, 
etc., etc. So much for fact, and not for imagination. But enough 
of this; you will see from what I have written what my opinion is. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 101 

There are many points in General Worth's character that I admire 
exceedingly. He is a gallant and brave soldier, but he wants ordinary 
judgment; he is irritable and deficient in self-command. 

As to General Taylor, my feelings towards him are of a friendly 
nature, though among his most prominent defects is the entire and 
utter ignorance of the use to which the staff department can be put, 
and especially my own corps. Did he have his own way, we should 
be perfectly useless; not from any unfriendly feeling on his part 
towards us, but from absolute ignorance of what we can be required 
to do, and perfect inability to make any use of the information we do 
obtain. He has, however, with him some few officers upon whose 
judgment he relies, and they every now and then manage to argue 
him into employing us. Let one fact illustrate this. We arrived at 
our camp opposite Matamoras on the 28th of March; we broke it up 
on the 1st of May, remaining there one whole month. During this 
time, from the commencement to the end, my individual efforts were 
repeatedly made, as well as were those of other officers, to induce 
him to reflect upon the subject of bridges, and in the absence of a 
pontoon train, which Congress was debating about giving us, to call 
upon his engineer officers for plans for crossing the river with such 
materials as were at hand. All of us were ready to give our ideas, 
and to make the necessary preparations and experiments; but, no, 
the old gentleman would never listen or give it a moment's attention. 
The consequence was, when the enemy were routed, and the ques- 
tion asked him, could we get over the river, there were no prepara- 
tions, and we were detained nine days, sending to Point Isabel after 
planks to make flats, and even then, had not the enemy retired and 
allowed us to cross with his own boats, we should have been twice as 
long getting over as we were. Here is the General's defect. Had 
he known how to use his engineers the month we were lying in camp, 
he would have had us at work experimenting, and when any plan 
proved successful, had a bridge constructed and put in depot, and 
then on the tenth, in three or four hours, the whole army, artillery 
and all, could have been crossed, and the Mexican army prevented 
from retreating with some twelve pieces of artillery. 

This is only for yourself, for I am utterly opposed to telling tales 
out of school; but at the same time, if you wish to know my opinions, 
I must refer to facts to sustain them. 

General Taylor is a gallant, brave old man, who knows not what 
fear is. Take him for all in all, however, I repeat what I have before 



102 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

said, I consider him the best General I have yet served under, 
and as good as any I know of at present in our service, unless it be 
General Scott, whom I hope soon to see here, and that he will have 
an opportunity of trial. 

Matamoras, June 12, 1846. 

I commence my letter to-day on a sheet of paper which was 
captured with the portfolio of his Excellency, General Arista, and 
was doubtless designed to bear the news of his anticipated victory 
to his friends in Mexico. It is the only trophy I have of victory, as 
all the rest of the captured property, and indeed this, was placed 
under guard by General Taylor, and no one, officer or private, was 
allowed to appropriate anything to himself. The stationery found 
with Arista's baggage he distributed among his staff officers, and I 
make use of my share to continue my correspondence with you. 

We of the army had all congratulated ourselves upon the good 
fortune which enabled us to secure such complete results without 
assistance, and we had hoped that the vile insinuations and slanders 
so lavishly poured upon us by a certain portion of both political 
parties, and the prejudices which existed in the minds of a large mass 
of the people against us as a class, would be done away with, and that 
we might look forward now, at least, to having justice done us. Yet 
what has been our astonishment and mortification to receive by the 
last mail information from Washington of the nomination by the 
President, and confirmation by the Senate, of one whole regiment 
recently added to the army, in which only one officer is taken from 
the army. This, in the face of a provision to the bill, from the 
House, raising the regiment, requiring the President to make all the 
appointments from the army, which provision was stricken out in 
the Senate, only by the casting vote of the Vice-President. 

We did not expect much better treatment from Colonel Polk, 
who is known to be prejudiced against West Point and the army, 
but the Senate has always stood by us, and you may therefore 
imagine our mortification to hear it confirmed these nominations 
after the news of our services had reached Washington. To add to the 
disgust which pervades every bosom among us, is the fact that many 
of the appointments are of individuals who have been dismissed from 
the army for gross acts of various kinds, and of others who have been 
dismissed from West Point for utter inefficiency and incapacity, 
some having tried and failed twice. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 103 

What can a government or country expect of a service that is 
treated in this manner? Understand me, I have no personal feeling 
in the matter, for I would not be colonel of the rifles if they offered 
it to me. But there are many captains who have been twenty years 
in the service of the Government, doing their duty in all climates and 
at all times faithfully and promptly, whose claims to simple pro- 
motion are thrown aside, and individuals placed over their heads to 
command them whom, under other circumstances, they would not 
associate. Now, I do not object to seeing civilians put in the ser- 
vice, and had Mr. Polk appointed the senior grades from the army 
and the captains, no one would have objected to filling up the subal- 
terns with citizens, and then the regiment might have been expected 
to be efficient, as the important grades would be filled by individuals 
supposed to know something of their duties. But as it is, it will 
take years to make the regiment of any use, as officers as well as men 
will have to learn their duties. Such is the treatment we receive, and 
yet we are caviled at if one resigns in disgust. 

We have nothing new. All are getting tired of waiting here for 
boats to send our supplies up the river. There was no preparation 
made for carrying the war into the enemy's country, and we must 
wait quietly till it is made. The volunteers have all arrived, except 
those from Texas, who are coming in daily; but they are not all we 
want. We must have pork and beans to feed them, and means of 
carrying the pork and beans and baggage to the points from whence 
we advance, and from those points into the interior. 

Speaking of the conduct of the Administration, and its desire to 
throw the blame of failure, had it occurred, upon General Taylor, I 
would observe that General Taylor had not received one line from 
the War Department from the early part of January, when it sent 
him orders to advance, up to this date; and the January communica- 
tion simply required him to advance to the Rio Grande and take up 
a position there, which he was to hold. It is true, last summer, he 
was authorized to call upon the Governors of Mississippi and Ala- 
bama for troops, if he required them, but in his last communication 
of January he was confined to Texas in his call. Now you must 
know General Taylor is opposed, from experience and a knowledge 
of their inefficiency, to the use of volunteers, and felt confident that 
until war was absolutely commenced, it would be better not to have 
them, and knew, after he got on the ground, that they could not be 
here in time; and facts have proved so, as none arrived for a month 



104 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

after they were required, and at this date, six weeks after they were 
wanted, Texans, to whom his last instructions confined him, have not 
yet made their appearance. But General Taylor, independent of 
his consciousness of the inefficiency of irregular troops, always ex- 
pressed his confidence in the ability of the regulars under his com- 
mand to maintain the defensive (all the Government asked of him), 
if his command was only kept up to the standard allowed by law; 
and he repeatedly and at various intervals called upon the Govern- 
ment to send him recruits and keep him full; and will you believe, 
notwithstanding his constantly calling its attention to this point, no 
recruits arrived till just as we were leaving Frontone, and then, of the 
nine hundred required to fill his command, it sent him one hundred 
and twenty-five, while at the same time it was sending them to St. 
Louis and other points, where their services could easily have been 
dispensed with. This, then, is the point I make, that through the 
neglect of the Government to answer the call of General Taylor, made to 
it almost monthly after his arrival at Corpus Christi, we were on the 
eighth and ninth deficient eight hundred men — a force ample in itself 
to have guaranteed our success under any circumstances. This and 
its failure to communicate with him, and keep him advised of its 
wishes, are the causes of complaint against the Government, reason- 
ably entertained by General Taylor; but I think I have given you 
enough of such matters for to-day. 

Yesterday there arrived from New Orleans, a deputation from 
the citizens of that place, to congratulate General Taylor upon his 
victories, and also a committee from the Legislature, to give him the 
thanks of Louisiana, and present him with a sword. The old Gen- 
eral received them very courteously, and having been warned of 
their approach, he had a cold collation prepared, at which, through 
the influence of champagne and other spirited things, many patriotic 
and complimentary speeches were made. To-day a number of the 
officers of the army, desirous of testifying their sense of the compli- 
ment paid them by the Legislature of Louisiana and citizens of New 
Orleans, got them up a dinner in town, to which all the volunteer 
officers were invited, and you may be assured it was a most jolly 
time. A great quantity of wine was imbibed and an infinite amount 
of patriotism resulted, besides the most gracious compliments of 
Volunteers to Regulars and Regulars to Volunteers, etc., etc. 

To show you I kept sober, I have added these lines after seeing 
the affair out. The people in the town were rather surly, and did 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS % 105 

not at all like our cheers and toasts, some of them saying we made a 
great fuss about nothing; but we asked for the laurel-wreaths the 
ladies were preparing for Arista and his officers, and the triumphal 
arches that were to have been erected. 

June 14. 

I forgot to mention in yesterday's letter, that Governor Henderson, 
with about five hundred mounted Texans, reached here and the Gov- 
ernor paid his respects to the General. I was much pleased with his 
appearance. You know he married in Paris, Miss Coxe, the niece of 
Dr. Hewson. He had in his cortege Dr. Ashbell Smith, the great 
Texan diplomat. Among others whom he brought with him, I was 
much interested in a young German, Count Blucher, the nephew of 
the old Field Marshall, who was an editor of a paper (radical) in 
Berlin, but owing to some articles which met with the disapproba- 
tion of the King, he was obliged to fly the country, and in his wander- 
ings found his way to Texas, and came here to see the fighting. He 
is about thirty years of age, of mild and gentle appearance, an excel- 
lent French and Spanish scholar, and said to be, by a gentleman who 
met him in New Orleans last winter, one of the ripest classical scholars 
he knew. I had some conversation with him about Texas, in which 
he expressed the greatest enthusiasm for the country and the wild 
life you lead in it, but the greatest disgust for the people you are 
obliged to associate with. He describes them as having all the bad 
traits of the Spanish and Italian banditti, without their amenity of 
manners and partial refinement. I fancy his account is very nearly 
true, and they constitute about the very worst specimen of our 
population. 

We continue in the same state of inaction. In a few days a month 
will have elapsed since we took possession of the town, and yet no 
advance, owing to the want of means of transportation. There is 
fault somewhere, but I do not know to whom to attribute the blame. 
We now have ten thousand men, and could we establish our depot 
at Camargo, and get our troops up there, we might be in Monterey 
in six weeks, and if the Mexicans are disposed to meet us, we should 
have an opportunity to gain one more victory, which I think would 
settle the matter. 



106 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Matamoras, June 28, 1846. 

It has been nearly two weeks since I have been able to write to 
you, but I trust the perfect quiet that prevails here will have been 
reported to you, and that you will not be uneasy on account of my 
silence. A few days after the date of my last letter (I think the fif- 
teenth) I was ordered to proceed to Reinosa in one of the steamboats, 
for the purpose of making an examination of the river between this 
point and that place. We left here on the nineteenth and returned 
only a few days ago. The expedition was extremely agreeable. I 
prevailed upon Trudeau, and a young Creole on General Smith's staff, 
by the name of Touchet, to accompany us, making a little party, 
and as the boat was a good one, clean and comfortable, we managed, 
when not engaged with our duties, to amuse ourselves in various 
ways. 

We found the river perfectly navigable all the way to Reinosa, 
and cultivated for nearly the whole distance, one hundred and eighty 
miles by water. Indeed, on the Mexican side, it was one vast corn 
field from here more than three quarters of the distance. Upon the 
other side the land is cleared, and has been under cultivation, but a 
large portion has been abandoned owing to the frequent depredations 
and incursions of the Comanche Indians. The soil upon the river 
bank is exceedingly rich, said by many to equal in fertility the banks 
of the Mississippi, and to be capable of producing sugar and cotton 
equal to the production of that rich valley. It is without doubt the 
finest part of Texas (if it belong to Texas!) that I have seen and I 
anticipate its being densely populated, one day, when its resources are 
made available by the establishment of the means of transporting 
its products to the sea. It has one advantage over the Mississippi 
Valley, which is its perfect salubrity. No diseases are known here, 
but such as are incident to all climates; there are no local diseases, 
none originating from causes only found here. I have seen several 
persons who told me they came to the river with the chills and fever, 
which they had brought with them, recovered here, and have never 
since been troubled with them. The river does not habitually, each 
year, overflow its banks — that is to say, it has no permanent and 
regular rises, as the Arkansas, Missouri, and other of our rivers have. 
It is nothing but a drain or canal, through which the surplus water 
of the country, caused by rain, springs, etc., passes off. Its rises, in 
consequence, are very sudden, but the water runs off equally fast. 
It was quite an agreeable sight in passing up, to see the banks, which 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 107 

are generally high and firm, covered with fields, extending for miles, 
with the finest corn I have ever seen, now and then a ranch, or village, 
in front of which all the inhabitants were collected, staring in stupid 
wonder at our little boat as she puffed her way up; and when we 
took off our hats and kissed our hands to the girls, they would all 
shout and laugh and make themselves most merry. 

In Reinosa I was much disappointed. It is a small place, not 
having at present over six hundred inhabitants, and containing evi- 
dences of magnificent designs most meagrely executed. The town 
is laid out in squares upon a hill of some fifty feet high, consisting of 
a rotten limestone, which material is used in constructing the houses. 
These, as in all their towns, are only one story and with square roofs. 
The walls are made nearly two feet thick, of this spongy limestone, 
and put together in immense blocks, with a cement of very inferior 
quality, made from the limestone. About one-half the houses are 
only half built; of the remainder, a large proportion are tumbling to 
pieces; so, in fact, though a town of recent date, one would suppose 
it was a century old from its apparently dilapidated state. Of the 
people who were in it, we found many agreeable acquaintances. 
They appeared to be more affably disposed towards us than the 
population of Matamoras, and the few who called themselves of the 
better order invited us to their houses and were exceedingly civil. 
We saw many pretty girls (that is, called pretty here), but with us 
they would not pass for beauties. But I have been struck with one 
remarkable fact with regard to the women, and that is the grace and 
ease of manner they all possess. It is even shown in the way they 
wear their clothes, always having them nicely made, clean, and grace- 
fully worn. I have often stopped at what is here called a Labor (a 
farm of three or four acres) and asked for a glass of water, when some 
really pretty girl, with a reboso gracefully thrown over her shoulder 
to conceal her dress (which for comfort is ordinarily worn with the 
body unfastened and thrown off), with her pretty patterned French 
calico or printed muslin, the only article I have seen the lower orders 
wear, well made and fitting perfectly, will hand you a cup of water, 
in a graceful way that would put to blush many of our finely dressed 
ladies of the upper ten thousand. I have been struck with their 
taste in the selection of dresses, shawls, etc. Our merchants who 
have followed the army brought with them an immense quantity of 
the Lowell prints and notwithstanding they offer them for less than 
one-third of the price these people are obliged to give for French 



108 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

calicos, they cannot sell them, the answer always being they do not 
like those patterns. 

General Taylor has not received a line from the Department 
since the battles — indeed, I heard him say he had not received a 
line from it since last January, when it ordered him to the Rio Grande; 
not even a simple acknowledgement of the receipt of his official re- 
ports, though we see by the papers that are now and then brought by 
vessels bringing over supplies, that his reports have been received, 
that he has been made a major-general, and owing to the course of 
General Scott, is to remain in command of the forces operating 
against Mexico. 

My own opinion is that the Mexicans will never disturb us on the 
river, our present position, but that they will make a stand at Mon- 
terey, should we advance into the interior. They will without doubt 
fortify that place, and it is understood to be capable of strong de- 
fense. Then they have a distance of eighty miles to Saltillo, which 
is a pass through the mountains, capable of being made impregnable 
if defended by brave and intrepid men, and which it will be difficult 
for us to force if they defend it properly. But I do not believe it is 
in the people to resist us as brave men would do, although every 
effort will be made to arouse their national prejudices and religious 
feelings against us. If we only had fifteen thousand regular troops, 
I believe sincerely we could march to the City of Mexico, but I doubt 
the practicability of so doing with a force of volunteers; for this 
reason, the regular troops, being disciplined and under the command 
of their officers, can be restrained, kept in subjection, and the war 
made a war against the Army and Government of Mexico, and not 
against the people, who would be left undisturbed in their peaceful 
vocations as the army passed on. But already have the volunteers 
commenced to excite feelings of indignation and hatred in the bosom 
of the people, by their outrages on thern. Every day complaints are 
made, of this man's cornfield being destroyed by the volunteers' 
horses put into it, or another man's fences being torn down by them 
for firewood, or an outrage committed on some inoffensive person by 
some drunken volunteer, and above all volunteers, those from Texas 
are the most outrageous, for they come here with the sores and recol- 
lections of wrong done, which have been festering in them for ten 
years, and under the guise of entering the United States service, they 
cloak a thirst to gratify personal revenge. Now it is impossible for 
General Taylor to restrain these men; he has neither the moral nor 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 109 

physical force to do it, and my apprehensions are that if we advance 
with them into the interior, they will exasperate the people against 
us, causing them to rise en masse, and if so there is no telling when 
the war will end. But if we can restrain them, and prove to the 
people our desire to let them alone, and only make war on the sol- 
diery and officeholders, one more victory will terminate the affair. 

In the meantime should the Oregon question be adjusted, and all 
hopes of assistance from England directly or indirectly, by her being 
at war with us, vanish, they will be disposed to treat without further 
collision. 

Matamoras, July 9, 1846. 

No movement has taken place since my last, but the sending of 
one regiment of infantry to Camargo, a point on the river some forty 
miles above Reinosa, and about one hundred by land from this place. 
A movement of the whole army is contemplated now in a few days, 
as at last we have ten boats on the river by which we can throw up 
supplies to Camargo, the point from whence it is intended to advance 
into the interior. 

The settlement of the Oregon question, the news of which was 
brought by the last mail, will have I think a most important influence 
on the course of Mexico, as in it she must see the destruction of all 
her fond hopes of assistance from England; and if it is true that the 
latter power has offered her mediation, as is reported, I believe, 
unless the United States are too exigeante in their terms, that peace 
will be made. But I fear this opportunity of acquiring California, 
either by right of conquest, or in payment of the expenses of the war 
and of the debts due by Mexico to our citizens, is too good to be lost, 
and that Mr. Polk will insist upon having upper California, in which 
event I fear the Mexicans are not sufficiently worsted to induce them 
to acquiesce. I believe with fifteen thousand regulars, we could go 
to the City of Mexico, but with thirty thousand volunteers the whole 
nature and policy of the war will be changed. Already are the in- 
jurious influences of their presence perceptible, and you will hear 
any Mexican in the street descanting on the good conduct of the 
"troyas de ligna" as they call us, and the dread of the "volontarios" 
And with reason, they (the volunteers) have killed five or six inno- 
cent people walking in the streets, for no other object than their own 
amusement; to-be-sure, they are always drunk, and are in a measure 
irresponsible for their conduct. They rob and steal the cattle and 



110 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

corn of the poor farmers, and in fact act more like a body of hostile 
Indians than of civilized whites. Their own officers have no command 
or control over them, and the General has given up in despair any 
hope of keeping them in order. The consequence is they are excit- 
ing a feeling among the people which will induce them to rise en masse 
to obstruct our progress, and if, when we reach the mountains, we 
have to fight the people as well as the soldiers, the game will be up 
with us. I have some hope, however, that when we leave this place, 
which has become a mass of grog-shops and gambling-houses, and 
march to meet the enemy, the absence of liquor, and the fear of the 
enemy, may induce a little more order among them and bring them 
to a better state of discipline. 

I suppose the good people of the North are much disappointed 
at our apparent want of energy and failure to prosecute vigorously 
the war; so with the volunteers, they are in a state of mutiny because 
they are not marched right off to meet the enemy. But all these 
wise people forget that soldiers cannot march or fight unless they have 
something to eat, and when in a country totally devoid of resources, 
they must carry with them the means of sustaining physical nature, 
and in consequence must have the means of carrying their provisions 
and other supplies. Now, on the 10th of May, the day after we 
routed the Mexicans, General Taylor had the means of transporting 
the supplies for three thousand men by land, but not expecting to 
use the river, as he had been commanded not to insist on its naviga- 
tion, he of course had no boats, but on that day, when the character 
of his operations underwent an entire change, and from acting sim- 
ply on the defensive to maintain a position, he assumed the offensive 
to carry on a war, upon that day he called for more wagons, and for 
boats to ascend the river, even then only contemplating the employ- 
ment of five thousand additional men, and simply the occupying and 
maintaining possession of both banks of the river. The Government, 
however, increases his force to thirty thousand men, designs an inva- 
sion, floods him with men, without sending the means of subsisting 
them, or of transporting them and their subsistence. 

Now these things should have been anticipated at Washington, 
and it would have been better for them to have turned their energies 
to forwarding supplies and means of transportation first, and then 
sent the men, when everything was ready for their use. This was 
poor General Scott's idea, and is the correct one. He saw the force 
could not be made available before September, and properly deemed 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS ' 111 

it useless for himself and command to be idling their time here wait- 
ing for wagons and pork, and had he confined himself in his letter 
simply to giving his military reasons for not leaving immediately, 
at the same time saying he would waive them and leave by the next 
mail, he would have been right, and would have been sustained. 
But, unfortunately, he chose to ascribe political reasons to what, I 
believe, was simply military ignorance on the part of Mr. Polk; and 
this, with his "hasty plate of soup," has ruined him forever, for it is 
much better in this country for a man to commit a gross crime than 
to make himself ridiculous; the former he may get over, the latter, 
never. 

But now, as I told you before, we have ten boats (after waiting 
two months for them), and the General will employ them in throwing 
supplies into Camargo, and will in a few days move the whole army 
up to that point, except such portions as are necessary to garrison 
the depots at this and other places. 

Camargo is one hundred miles from here, and the roads are very 
bad, owing to recent rains. It will therefore take to the 1st of August 
before the army will be concentrated there. Then the means of 
transporting from that point to Monterey, a distance of one hundred 
and sixty miles, the supplies for a column of eight or ten thousand 
men will have to be collected there, and various preparations made, 
which will consume some weeks, so that I hardly think the advance 
from Camargo will be made before the latter part of August. 

In the meantime I shall probably be occupied in making recon- 
noissances of the roads and country between Camargo and Monterey, 
in advance of the army. Since my last letter, Captain Williams, of 
the corps, has arrived, to act as Chief Topographical Engineer, and 
a young lieutenant by the name of Pope 1 is also ordered here. This 
will make, with Mr. Wood and myself, four officers, of whom I shall 
be the second in rank. Four others have been sent, I understand, 
with Colonel Kearney, from St. Louis to Santa Fe, namely, Emory, 
Warner, Peck and Abert. This makes eight officers of the corps in 
the field. 

I suppose you are aware a large cavalry force is being collected at 
San Antonio de Bexar, which is to be under the command of General 
Wool, and they are to march from San Antonio to Chihuahua, a 
large town of fourteen thousand inhabitants, on the highroad from 

lieutenant John Pope, of the Topographical Engineers, afterward major- 
general U. S. Vols., Civil War. 



112 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

the City of Mexico to Santa Fe, so that the occupation of Monterey, 
Chihuahua and Santa Fe will give us actual possession of the whole 
of New Mexico. 

I have been given to understand at headquarters that there will 
probably be one or two Topographical Engineers sent to General 
Wool from this command; in which case I shall certainly be one, for 
Captain Williams will remain with General Taylor, and I coming 
next, will have the claim to the independent position, and, if two go, 
to the command of the assistant who is sent. Of course I would 
rather be first than second of my corps, and without doubt the expe- 
dition to Chihuahua will be agreeable, as it is represented as being 
one of the finest cities in Northern Mexico; but still I would prefer 
remaining with General Taylor, as he will see the fighting if any 
more is to be done. The expedition to Chihuahua will doubtless 
be effected without opposition from the Mexicans, though General 
Wool may meet with the Indians. 

I shall, however, adopt the course in this instance which I have 
always taken, of expressing no wish or feeling in the matter, but 
obeying with alacrity any order that may be given me. They may 
send officers from Washington to General Wool, which would obviate 
the necessity of any going from here, or the General may find he has 
occupation for all of us with him. Time alone will show. As it is 
we (the Topographical Engineers) are all going to Camargo in a day 
or two, to commence the exploration of the country between there 
and Monterey. 

I note with pride and pleasure the good opinion of my epistolary 
powers, which your dear father and others have been pleased to ex- 
press, and also your request that I should keep a journal, if I have 
not done so. I have not kept a journal, or any memoranda but my 
letters to you. What your father says is very true — that war will 
be a matter of history, and the day may come when the evidence of 
the most humble participator in it may be of importance in elucidat- 
ing some disputed point. Still, I do not think I could ever bring 
myself to the point of writing a book, and should feel something like 
the old General, who, when he was told a delegation from the Legis- 
lature of Louisiana had arrived to deliver to him a sword, observed 
he would rather go through another battle than make a speech in 
reply to them. When the occasion came, I assure you the old man 
was a great deal more excited and embarrassed than at any period 
of the action. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 113 

I cannot express to you how thankful I am you refused John 
Cadwalader's 1 request to publish my letter, and I have mentioned 
your good sense and prudence with great pride throughout the camp. 
It is the more appreciated, as many good people similarly situated 
have not exercised the same discretion, and many letters have been 
published which their authors would have given a great deal to have 
revised before meeting the eyes of their brother officers. Instances 
of individual valor which were never known before the letters came 
here in the papers, extraordinary feats performed by persons who 
were never near the reputed scene of action, and all kinds of lies and 
absurdities have been sent forth, the poor devils writing them sup- 
posing they would only be seen by their friends, and these little white 
lies, induced by their vanity, pass undiscovered. Another set wrote 
what they believed to be true, but in giving their accounts of the 
actions have run counter in their impressions to the impressions of 
others, so as to have raised in the army a number of cliques, each 
having its individual hero. Now, though I wrote you nothing but 
the truth, and what I saw myself, yet as it is impossible on a field of 
battle for any one man to see and know everything, many things 
escaped me, and had my letter been published and reached here, 
many who are now my good friends would have abused me for having 
omitted to mention their extraordinary services. Indeed, of the 
mass of letters I know of but one which has met with anything like 
approbation, and I am therefore over-rejoiced at your good sense in 
withholding mine. If there is anything I do dislike, it is newspaper 
notoriety. I think it is the curse of our country, and fear it is seri- 
ously injuring our little army, whose tone once was utterly opposed 
to making use of the public press to sustain their cause. 

As to my name being mentioned in General Taylor's report, I 
think your expectations were altogether too high, and you deserved 
to be disappointed. When you reflect that of nearly two hundred 
officers only some twenty-five were mentioned, you must certainly 
acknowledge it a compliment. And the very fact of its being brought 
to your notice by so many persons proves that it was a compliment 
of no small value. Now, I did nothing but my duty, which did not 
require that I should charge batteries, or shoot Mexicans, or place 
myself in any position where I could display extraordinary personal 
valor, and I am only mentioned because, being near the person of 

1 John Cadwalader, of Philadelphia, afterward judge of the U. S. District 
Court. 



114 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

the General, and having performed my duty, it was only by his men- 
tioning me that the simple fact would be made known. 

Still, I consider it a distinguished compliment, quite undeserved 
on my part; for there were many equally entitled with myself to it 
who are not known except to their few personal friends as having 
been in the action; whereas, all over the country and in Europe, 
wherever I should have an acquaintance, they will know by this re- 
port, at least, that I was in both actions, and that appears to be a 
great deal nowadays, and is indeed a fact of which I do not hesitate 
to say I am exceedingly proud. 

Matamoeas, July 16, 1846. 

Obstacle after obstacle presents itself to us, so that it is impos- 
sible to calculate when we shall even move. At first we had no 
boats or provisions to throw forward. Now, when the boats have 
come, the river rises to its maximum height, overflows the whole 
country above and below, cuts off all communication by land even, 
from here to Point Isabel, and occupies nearly all the boats in bring- 
ing up here the crowds of men sent by the Government, and the pro- 
visions necessary to feed them. Just as we are getting boats enough 
to perform this duty, and take up provisions to Camargo, it rains as if 
heaven and earth were coming together, and renders the road from 
here to that point impassable, forcing us to send the troops by water, 
which will be the work of months, as one boat can only take half a 
regiment at a time. Add to all this that the Secretary of War sends 
an order declaring all the troops called out by General Taylor, who 
enlisted for more than three months (that is to say for six), as illegally 
enlisted, the law only allowing an enlistment of three months, and 
requiring them to be disbanded at the expiration of their term of 
service. Here, then, is the whole force that General Taylor has been 
relying on for his forward movement — namely, the troops from Lou- 
isiana, Texas, St. Louis and Louisville — taken at once from him, and 
he obliged to delay his movements till the twelve-months' men shall 
arrive here and be sent to Camargo. So that I do not see how we 
are to leave Camargo, to advance into the enemy's country, till late 
in the fall. 

Again, I had some hopes from the mediation of England, and 
trusted the United States would be willing to make peace; but from 
information received by the last mail, I fear Mr. Polk is not very 
anxious for peace, and that his demands upon Mexico will be such 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS » 115 

that she will prefer trying her fortune in battle once more before she 
yields. I refer to the fact that troops are being sent to California 
by sea, round Cape Horn, a voyage of six or eight months' duration. 
Now, either Mr. Polk presumes the war will continue that length of 
time, or he is determined to have California, as one of the terms of 
peace, and these troops are to take possession of it in case of war, 
and to garrison it in the event of peace having been made before they 
reach there. 

I do not think Mexico has been led to feel our power sufficiently 
to induce her to dismember herself, and that we shall have to whip 
her much more than we have done, before she will consent to yield 
to terms so hard as these. So that I fear we shall be compelled to 
advance into the country — and pretty far into it, too — before we can 
look for anything like a definite termination to this state of things. 

Point Isabel, July 24, 1846. 

Since I last wrote you (on the 16th instant) I have been directed 
to come here in search of some public property which Captain Wil- 
liams desired to obtain immediate possession of. I came down the 
river on a small steamboat, with nine hundred men on board — a 
regiment of volunteers from Louisiana, who had served their three 
months, and declined remaining for twelve more, which has been the 
decision of the Government. 

Eight thousand men are in this position, called out by General 
Gaines for six months, and the Government now decides that volun- 
teers cannot be called out for a greater period than three months, 
unless by Special Act of Congress, and has directed that this force, 
at the end of their three months, is to be disbanded, unless it chooses 
to serve for nine months, making a year. As a matter of course, 
they all decline, so that we shall have to transport these eight thou- 
sand men out of the country, and they have just been here three 
months, to eat up two hundred and forty thousand rations; and our 
means of transportation, so necessary for us to throw our troops and 
supplies up to Camargo, are taken to carry these people to a point 
where they can get shipping. And this is the way everything is 
being done, affording every day stronger practical illustration of the 
utter unfitness of our Government for carrying on a war of invasion. 

Indeed, so irregular and undisciplined is the force sent here that 
I shall be surprised if I ever find myself at Monterey; for I really do 
not see how General Taylor can carry on operations with a force which 



116 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

he cannot depend upon for doing the slightest thing for itself. A 
regiment cannot move its camp eight or ten miles, without incurring 
the risk of starving; for though furnished with wagons and ample 
means of transportation, they will overload their wagons with bag- 
gage and sutler's goods, and leave their provisions, thinking this a 
clever trick by which they will force the Government officers to send 
on their provisions by extra transportation. The consequence is 
they arrive at their new position, and the next day they have nothing 
to eat, and then complain of the regular officers. Everything, in 
consequence, connected with these people is one mass of confusion, 
and I do not believe they ever will be taught to take care of them- 
selves, and of course our operations will be proportionately impeded. 
I came down the river with Captain A. Slidell McKenzie, who 
came here in a vessel of war, direct from Havana, went to see General 
Taylor, with whom he remained closeted for some hours, and is now 
on his way to Washington. It is supposed his mission has some 
connection with Santa Anna, but upon this point he is silent. He, 
however, makes public the intelligence that California has declared 
itself independent of Mexico, and thrown herself upon the protection 
of the United States. This is but the first move in the game I have 
long since anticipated. We learn, moreover, that a regiment of in- 
fantry is to go out in the "North Carolina" (74) to California, other 
troops having preceded them. We are then to have California at all 
hazards, and Mexico, I am sure, will never yield this point until she 
is forced so to do. I look, then, for a long war — at least for no speedy 
adjustment of our difficulties, unless England should advise Mexico 
to yield to our requirements. 

By the blessing of God I continue in excellent health, and trust 
this will be continued. The army is in excellent health, considering 
its exposure and the nature of the climate. I do not think the num- 
ber of sick is greater than it would be were we encamped at the 
North. 

Matamoras, July 30, 1846. 
I returned to this place yesterday, very glad, I assure you, to 
get away from the immense crowd of volunteers, that was over- 
crowding everything and everybody at the mouth of the river. I 
was truly delighted to find on my arrival your letters from the 2d to 
the 14th of July. At length you have received some of my letters, 
and appear in better spirits. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 117 

I regret I have nothing new to tell you. Most of the regulars 
have gone up to Camargo, and the General proposes to start in two 
or three days. I shall accompany him. I suppose we will be de- 
tained some time at Camargo, organizing the army and making 
preparations for our march into the enemy's country. At the last 
accounts they had no reinforcements at Monterey, and only had the 
wreck of the army they had there, which was assiduously engaged 
fortifying the place. I am in hopes Paredes will be able to raise an 
army and reach Monterey before we do, and let us have our fight 
there, instead of farther in the interior. I think the war will not end 
till we give them another drubbing, and if we succeed in doing that, 
then they will probably come to their senses and make terms. This 
appears to be the opinion of the most intelligent Mexicans here, that 
Paredes will make a great effort to raise a large army to meet us, and 
in the event of his being defeated, he will lose his power, and some 
of his rivals will come into power, who will make terms with us. 
Should this prove true, the sooner the battle takes place the better. 

Two French painters have arrived from New Orleans to collect 
materials for painting the battle of the ninth. They have been 
taking the likenesses of all the principal individuals in the action, 
and as one of General Taylor's staff, they took mine, that is a simple 
pencil sketch. I could not recognize it myself, nor do I suppose any 
one else could, as it put me in mind of the "Herald's" wood-cut of 
the Prince de Joinville. However, I suppose it is a great honor to 
be put in a picture in any way, and perhaps one of these days, when 
you see it, you will see on the directing card: "No. 15, Lieut. Meade, 
Top'l Eng's." They propose making a large picture and hope to 
sell it to Congress or some public institution. 

Matamoras, August 3, 1846. 

The General has determined to go up to Camargo by water, and 
starts on the first boat; but Captain Williams, preferring to go by 
land, has obtained his permission to accompany a command that 
leaves to-morrow, consisting of four companies of infantry and a 
battery of artillery. Of course I go with Captain Williams, and shall 
therefore leave to-morrow morning before sunrise. I should have 
preferred myself going by water, as I would avoid riding in the hot 
sun, but in other respects the land journey will be the most pleasant, 
as the boats are dirty and uncomfortable and all filled with troops. 

We have no news. You will have doubtless seen before this 



118 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

reaches you, the intelligence brought by the " Princeton/ ' which 
brings our dates up to the 10th inst., at the City of Mexico. The 
Congress had authorized Paredes to prosecute vigorously the war, 
but furnished him with no means, nor had they taken any steps to 
raise any means for him. He on his part was afraid to leave the City 
of Mexico. No troops had been raised, and there was difficulty in 
getting generals to lead them, after the treatment Arista had received. 
This is confirmed by our advices from Monterey, which state there 
are only two thousand five hundred men there, and no certain intelli- 
gence of any approaching. From this it is not improbable they may 
allow us to occupy Monterey without opposition, but I cannot think 
the war will be ended without more fighting, and I therefore dislike 
to see it put off. 

Reinosa, August 10, 1846. 

We arrived here to-day on our March to Camargo, and I seize 
the opportunity afforded by a few hours' halt to send you some ac- 
count of my movements. 

We left Matamoras on the 5th inst., but in consequence of the 
state of the roads near the river, we had to make a long detour to 
reach this place, making a march of over ninety miles, when the 
straight road is not more than sixty. As is always the case, this 
march has improved me very much. I was beginning to feel the 
effects of lying idle at Matamoras, but now I am as well as possible, 
notwithstanding our first two days' march was through the rain, 
and the last in the burning sun, with often a space of sixteen miles 
without water. 

The country we came over was rather monotonous, the early 
part being a level prairie; but the last day we came over a rolling 
limestone country that was exceedingly agreeable to our eyes, seeing 
the first undulating country I had seen since I left the United States. 

We leave this afternoon for Camargo, and expect to reach it in 
three days. 

In Camp near Camargo, Mexico, August 13, 1846. 
We arrived here early this morning, after having marched nearly 
one hundred and twenty miles in eight days, which, when you con- 
sider the climate and the season of the year, is doing pretty well. 
The last few days the heat was so intense in the middle of the day, 
that we were obliged to get up at twelve o'clock at night, and finish 
our day's march before eight o'clock in the morning. As we had a 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 119 

moon, this was readily effected, and I presume will be the plan 
adopted hereafter in marching to Monterey, for we find this upper 
country very much hotter than it was at Matamoras. The sun, if 
anything, is more powerful, owing to a great quantity of limestone, 
which reflects the heat, and then we are without the delightful breeze 
which kept us comfortable below. 

Camargo is a small place, but little larger than Reinosa, contain- 
ing, I should suppose, some three thousand inhabitants. It is situ- 
ated on the river San Juan, some three miles from its Junction with 
the Rio Grande. Though placed on very high ground, so great are 
the freshets that the San Juan is subject to that a few months ago 
nearly one-third of Camargo was destroyed by a rise in the river. 
The people are, in consequence, in a great state of destitution, most 
of them living in the open air and almost starving. Our arrival, 
therefore, has been a perfect windfall to them, as, what with washing, 
selling milk, and other eatables, cutting grass for our horses, and a 
thousand other things, they manage to pick up a great deal of mone} 7 -, 
and are thus reconciled to our presence. Indeed, the authorities 
express themselves delighted, and hope we will retain possession of 
the country. They have promptly supplied all our requisitions for 
mules, cattle for beef, etc., etc., and have with equal promptitude re- 
fused the requisitions of their own Government for similar articles, 
and for men. 

We do not hear as much at this place from Monterey as we did 
at Matamoras, from all I can learn. They appear to have been un- 
able to reinforce the regular troops at Monterey, but they have made 
extraordinary exertions in turning out the militia, and it is said they 
have collected seven thousand men of this description of force. The 
more they have of these fellows, the better for us, for it is well known 
they will run at the first shot, and will prove no obstacle to our ad- 
vance. They have only two thousand five hundred regulars, the re- 
mains of Arista's army. They are said to be fortifying the place, 
but I have no apprehensions of their engineers; they proved them- 
selves of no account at Matamoras, where their work was of the most 
miserable description. As for ourselves, we have now collected here 
three thousand regulars, and about two thousand volunteers; the 
latter are arriving in numbers daily from below. A reconnoitering 
party has gone out to examine the roads, and upon its return I under- 
stand it is General Taylor's intention to commence the advance 
movement by throwing forward a brigade of regulars to some point 



120 LIFE AND LETTERS OP GENERAL MEADE 

about one-third the distance, where it is proposed to establish a 
depot for the supply of the main army on the march. 

Opinions are again becoming contradictory as to the reception we 
are to meet with at Monterey, many thinking they will make a desper- 
ate stand then, others that we shall occupy the place without a shot. 
My own opinion is, that they will make a stand at some point of our 
march, and that point will be fixed by their ability to reinforce their 
people at Monterey. If Paredes can throw into Monterey a large 
force of regulars before we reach it, they will fight there; if not, 
those that are now there will retire before us, till they meet the 
army from the interior, and give us battle at some favorable point, 
after they have effected a junction. I do not join in the general 
opinion of their carrying on a desperate guerilla war. Though de- 
scended from the Spaniards, they are a very different race from the 
hardy mountaineers of Spain. Their mixture with the Indian and 
negro race, and the effect of climate enervating them, render them a 
listless race, destitute of the energy necessary for a war which is 
solely one of enterprise. Then again, the people in the interior are 
ignorant, utterly so, of the use of arms, the Government having pro- 
hibited their keeping them, from the fear of their being used against 
it. Indeed, it is universally conceded that their most warlike prov- 
inces are these we are now occupying, where the necessity of defend- 
ing themselves against the Indians, and latterly the Texans, has com- 
pelled the Government to allow them arms, the use of which they 
have acquired; and yet, when we lay opposite Matamoras for a 
month, and they had, besides their regular force, some two thousand 
rancheros, they never even attempted any enterprise against us, 
though we afforded them all the opportunities it was possible to give 
them. From hence I infer that in the interior we shall meet with no 
such determined resistance from the people; and as to their regular 
soldiers, they are no better fitted for guerilla fighting than are ours. 
My only apprehensions as to success arise from the constitution of 
our own force. I fear our volunteers will not only prove inefficient 
themselves, but will prove a serious obstacle to our efficiency, by im- 
peding our progress. I fear the glory we have acquired at the Palo 
Alto and Resaca de la Palma will be somewhat dimmed by our appar- 
ently tardy operations succeeding them. People who are accustomed 
to read of campaigns in Europe and elsewhere, where armies march 
over thickly settled countries, producing all that is required for the 
subsistence of the army, and where towns are daily occupied for 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 121 

quarters for the troops, and hospitals for the sick, are unable to com- 
prehend the obstacles to be surmounted by an army obliged to march 
three hundred miles over a country which, as far as supplies are 
concerned, is a perfect desert, forcing it to carry everything with it, 
in the shape of supplies, ammunition, medical stores, quarters, hos- 
pitals, and even the food for the animals, necessary to transport 
these things. Then reflect that after these two battles (now three 
months since), not the slightest preparation had been made in antici- 
pation of offensive operations, that boats had to be sent for to New 
Orleans, six hundred miles distant, that these boats, mere shells made 
to run on rivers, had to be brought six hundred miles over a tempestu- 
ous sea, that all the provisions had to be purchased in New Orleans, 
that wagons had to be made in Ohio, because they were not to be 
found in New Orleans, that mules had to be purchased from the 
enemy; and while all this was being done, some twenty thousand 
men were rushing into the country, who not only consumed supplies 
as fast as they arrived, but had to be taken care of, as you would so 
many children. Already have they in almost every volunteer regi- 
ment reported one-third their number sick, and in many cases one- 
half the whole regiment, and I fear the mortality will be terrible 
among them, from their utter ignorance of the proper mode of taking 
care of themselves. This large number of sick is a dead weight upon 
us, taking away so many men as hospital attendants, requiring quar- 
ters, etc. ; and if taken sick on the march, requiring transportation in 
wagons or on litters; all these things tell in the long run, and I men- 
tion them to vindicate General Taylor from the charges I see the 
Union is bringing against him, of want of energy, and not pursuing 
properly his victories. 

He has been and is most anxious to move, but the credit he has 
already acquired renders him the more determined to move in an 
efficient manner, and not in such a way as to render his movements 
of no avail. Loud complaints are being made against him here also, 
by the Texans and other volunteers, vociferously demanding to be 
led forward, and criticising his slow movements, calling them scien- 
tific, saying it is all nonsense to take such a quantity of supplies, we 
ought to live on fresh beef, of which the country is full, as they, the 
Texans, always did, they never carried wagons and such things. 
True enough, but what was the result? Why, when they met the 
enemy, one hour's fight exhausted all their ammunition, and they had 
to retire, and when they retired, they abandoned their sick and 



122 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

wounded on the field. And, if a man was taken sick on a march he 
was left, to join them if he could get well, if not, to die alone in the 
midst of the prairie; and if the enemy, as they often did, previously 
drove the cattle away, then, after starving for some days, they had 
to come back, because there were no cattle in the country; and after 
they took a place, they had to abandon it in a few days, because they 
had no means of holding it. In fact, their war, was simply a series 
of badly designed and worse executed forays, gaining no point, and 
causing them, with all their boasted valor and skill, to leave for ten 
years the whole of this frontier in the hands of the Mexicans. This 
is not our plan. When we advance it is for some object, and we shall 
have the means of holding every advantage we gain, of taking care 
of our people en route and in depots, and being enabled to fight 
several battles before our ammunition gives out. But to do this, 
preparations must be made, and preparations require time in every 
country, but most particularly in this. The Government is to blame 
for not making the preparations before it sent the troops, and what 
General Scott told it is now fully verified, "that nothing could be 
done before September." 

The Commanche Indians, the other day, made a descent upon 
Mier, a town some thirty miles above here, butchered the women 
and children, carried off young girls, and committed all sorts of depre- 
dations. A command was immediately sent after them, but did not 
overtake them. The command, unfortunately, were Texans, the 
only mounted force then here, and would you believe it, these fellows 
sustained the Indians, and said they were our allies and we were 
wrong in endeavoring to punish them for their conduct towards our 
enemies, even though it did outrage all the laws of civilized warfare, 
and from what had recently transpired, it is feared that the Indians 
have been incited to this act by people bearing the title of American 
citizens! They have recently (the Indians) made a treaty of peace 
with us, and it is rumored that at that treaty they were informed of 
the war with Mexico, and that Mexicans were our enemies; then hear- 
ing of the two battles, and knowing of the defeat of the Mexican 
troops, they had come here to plunder and murder, thinking we 
would uphold them in it. But the General is determined to punish 
them if he can get hold of them, and to give them to understand they 
must keep in their territory. The effect upon the Mexicans would 
be most injurious of the toleration of such acts, as it would arouse in 
them a feeling of indignation at our employing Indians; but if, on 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 123 

the contrary, we chastise them, the effect will be most beneficial, as 
it will prove the Indians are not our allies, and that we can protect 
the Mexicans from them, which their own Government had never 
been able to do. 

Camargo, Mexico, August 18, 1846. 

I have been this morning ordered to accompany General Worth, 
who leaves to-morrow with the advance of the army, to establish a 
depot at Seralvo, a small town about half-way between this and 
Monterey. I am, of course, very much gratified at again being in the 
advance, always considered the most honorable position. 

You might think from what I have written of General Worth, 
that being on his staff would not be so agreeable as remaining with 
General Taylor, and such indeed is the case; but the arrival of Cap- 
tain Williams precludes my having the same position with General 
Taylor as before, since he occupies it, and I am quite gratified to 
change it for a position on General Worths staff, where, as far as 
my own corps is concerned, I shall be the head. 

We leave to-morrow. Seralvo is some sixty miles distant, and is 
said to be, by those who recently visited it on a reconnoitering party, 
delightfully situated, in a rolling country, with delicious cold water 
running from the hillsides, and abundance of fruit of all kinds. I 
have to leave here all my baggage except my little valise and my bed 
— I even go without my tent — for our only means of transportation 
are pack-mules, and we have to reduce everything to the minimum. 

Of course the army will be concentrated before we reach Mon- 
terey. We are only a detachment (about one thousand) sent in 
advance, to take possession of this point, to which provisions, etc., 
will be sent for the supply of after columns. 

I sincerely trust that our advance movement will be but the be- 
ginning of the end, and that we shall soon have an opportunity of 
showing these people our determination to push this war, and hence 
induce them to come to terms. 

I see, by Sir Robert Peel's speech, that England did offer her 
mediation, and therefore presume it has been declined by Mr. Polk. 

As to the contemplated attack on the castle of San Juan de Ulloa, 
I very much fear it will be a failure, if the Mexicans make a stout 
resistance. I never believed in the ability of fleets to take fortifica- 
tions, though the navy always expressed its confidence of success, 
until it became necessary for it to attempt it. I think now it would 



124 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

be more prudent, as far as success is concerned, to have a combined 
attack by land and water. I understand there is a hill just back of 
Vera Cruz, which commands the castle, and is only three-quarters of 
a mile distant. A battery of heavy guns placed here would render 
most effectual assistance in subduing the place. 

Seralvo, Mexico, August 28, 1846. 

We arrived here two days ago, after a very pleasant march of 
some six days from Camargo. We neither saw nor heard anything 
of the enemy, though we are now sixty miles in the interior, and about 
half-way to Monterey. 

This place is situated just at the foot of the first range of moun- 
tains, and is prettily placed in the valley of a mountain stream, 
which, as it is pure, cool water, we esteem a great luxury. The people 
have received us most kindly — indeed, the authorities, after General 
Worth had given them an official letter, informing them of his inten- 
tion to occupy the town, as part of a conquered country, and in con- 
sequence should expect from them supplies of various kinds, for all 
of which prompt payment in cash, at fair prices, would be made, and 
the whole town turned out and brought us grass, wood, corn, flour, 
and everything that was asked for, cheerfully. 

We found here, in the possession of the Alcalde, a paper from the 
City of Mexico of the 6th of August, making known that the revolu- 
tion, which had broken out two months previously at Guadalajara, 
had extended to the city itself, and on that day the troops of the 
garrison had declared for Santa Anna, and Paredes was no longer in 
power. Santa Anna will, of course, return now, but what his course 
will be is as yet in doubt. My impression is that either he will at 
once propose terms and make peace, or he will set himself energetically 
to work to prosecute the war; and as he is the master-spirit of this 
country, far beyond all others in talent and resources, should he adopt 
the latter course, we may look for a long and severely contested war. 

I trust, however, he will have the good sense to see the inutility 
of his country struggling against the United States, and as he will 
find it in a state of distraction, requiring all his ability to put it in 
such a condition as to make certain his power, he will yield to the 
influence of England and propose such terms as Mr. Polk will con- 
sider acceptable. 

We have now here some nine hundred men, with a battery of 
artillery. Fifteen miles from us is another detachment of six hun- 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 125 

dred, with another battery, and in rear of them, at various intervals, 
are stationed brigades, on the road to Camargo; so that in a day we 
might concentrate a force of several thousand here, which number 
is sufficient for a defensive attitude, in the event of our hearing of 
the advance of the enemy. 

Our latest intelligence (three days from Monterey) is to the effect 
they have received no accession of force, though it was reported Am- 
pudia, with three thousand men, was marching from San Luis Potosi, 
and would be in Monterey in the course of four or five days. Should 
this prove true, it would give them at that point a regular force of 
between five and six thousand men, and a large irregular force, and 
with the works they have erected around the town, they may be in- 
duced to offer resistance. 

I have been agreeably disappointed in my service with General 
Worth, having been treated with all possible courtesy and kindness, 
and I hope I shall remain with him so long as he is in the advance. 

Seralvo, Mexico, September 3, 1846. 

As to hostilities, our latest intelligence would lead us to believe 
we may expect to meet with resistance at Monterey. We have un- 
doubted information (indeed I have seen a paper from the City of 
Mexico announcing the fact) that on the 6th of August a revolution 
of the soldiery took place in the city, dispossessing Paredes of the 
Government, and recalling Santa Anna. This individual, it is said, 
made his appearance at Vera Cruz on the 17th ultimo, and is now at 
the head of affairs, with the avowed intention of prosecuting vigor- 
ously the war against us. From Monterey we learn that, four days 
ago, Ampudia (placed in command by Santa Anna) had arrived, with 
two thousand men and four pieces of artillery, and that large rein- 
forcements were daily expected, and they expressed their determina- 
tion to meet us before we reached the town, in order to spare it. All 
this is report, except the arrival of reinforcements, which we know to 
be a fact. It has always been my opinion that they would make a 
stand at Monterey, if they obtained reinforcements, and I therefore 
expect we shall have to take the place by force of arms; but I do not 
anticipate its being a very difficult affair, from all I can learn of their 
preparations. As to their coming out to meet us, I cannot believe 
them so foolhardy; it would be too much good fortune for us, as 
our success would be beyond a doubt. 

On our own part our movements continue as tardy as ever. 



126 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

General Taylor has determined to march on Monterey with between 
six and seven thousand men, all his regulars and some picked volun- 
teers. The remainder of the volunteers are to be left at Camargo, 
under General Patterson, 1 and are to be sent for as soon as we reach 
any part of the country where an increased force can be subsisted. 
The movement has commenced from Camargo, and we are daily 
expecting the arrival of the next division of regulars, when we will 
be pushed on in advance. 

Unfortunately for us we have had some very heavy rains in the 
last few days, which have so swollen some of the streams on the road 
as to delay the march of the troops till they subside, and I fear it will 
be some weeks before we shall be at Monterey. I say, I fear, not 
that I am over-anxious to have any more fighting, for, God knows, 
I have seen enough, and am perfectly willing to forego any additional 
glory; but if we have the thing to do, the sooner it is over the better 
for all hands. And if Santa Anna has returned with the intention 
of prosecuting the war, we may make up our minds to having to 
whip them severely before they come to terms, and having this to 
do, my wish is that as little time as possible should intervene, and as 
little distance as possible be marched over before this consummation 
is brought about. 

We are all in fine spirits and most anxious to move on. 

Seralvo, Mexico, September 11, 1846. 
We have now collected at this point the army intended to operate 
against Monterey. It consists of — 

Eight regiments of regular infantry 2500 men. 

Four regiments of volunteer infantry 2000 " 

Four batteries of light artillery 280 " { ganders 

' Two 
24-pounders, 

One battery of heavy artillery 100 " j Howitzers 

and one 
. heavy mortar 

Two squadrons of regular cavalry 200 " 

One squadron of volunteer cavalry 150 " 

Two regiments of volunteer cavalry 1000 " 



Total 6230 men 

1 Major-General Robert Patterson, U. S. Vols. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 127 

In addition, there are between four and five hundred men at- 
tached in various ways, such as teamsters, hospital attendants and 
others, most of whom are armed, and will swell our force at a pinch 
to seven thousand men, in round numbers. 

I have just returned from a reconnoissance of the road in advance 
of this place. I proceeded thirty miles, when we came within a 
mile of a cavalry force of the enemy, amounting to eight hundred. 
It was in the middle of the night, we having ridden very hard to 
endeavor to surprise them; but upon reaching this point, we found, 
from the peasantry, that two couriers had passed in advance of us, 
who knew of all our movements, and even stated our number, eighty 
strong. Finding them prepared for us, we drove in their pickets, 
and awaited their pursuit; but the cowardly rascals were afraid to 
come after us, and not being strong enough ourselves to attempt to 
attack them, we returned to camp unmolested. To-morrow I go 
forward in advance of the army with a strong working party and 
escort, to repair the road previously examined. The army will com- 
mence their march the next day, and in ten days from now we shall 
know whether Monterey is ours, by hard knocks or not. I under- 
stand General Taylor thinks there will be no fighting, and he probably 
has sources of information beyond mine. At any rate, above you 
have my opinion, which is condensed, that the question turns, first, 
on the necessity Santa Anna may find himself under to continue 
the war; upon this turns the question of war or peace; and, secondly, 
in case of war, his ability to collect a force to resist us, upon which 
will depend the point where we may expect to fight. Under any 
circumstances, a few months must now decide the matter. We are 
in motion with six thousand five hundred men. At Camargo, on the 
river, some one hundred and forty miles in rear of Monterey, we leave 
a reserve of eight or ten thousand men. We have all the means of 
transportation we can expect to get, and there is no obstacle to our 
onward progress, but such as the enemy will present. Should we 
defeat them, as I feel confident we will, I think one battle will induce 
them to yield, as it will take them some time to reassemble another 
army, during which time we shall be advancing towards their capital. 
Our people are in fine condition and spirits, and I think will give a 
good account of themselves should the enemy be kind enough to 
give us the opportunity. Still, the impression of the majority is 
there will be no fight, and odds are offered on this. You may prob- 
ably have heard of peace when this reaches you, in which event, of 
course you will have all your anxiety removed. 



128 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

And now as to the subject of brevets mentioned in your last letter, 
in which you appear mortified at my having been passed over. You 
doubtless remember I told you I expected nothing of the kind, and 
consequently am not disappointed. I understand General Taylor 
did me the honor to name me for promotion on his long list, the one 
considered too large to send to the Senate; but I was always aware 
that the nomination of the commanding general was one thing, and 
the nomination by the "President" another, the one requiring hard 
service, the other political influence, the curse of our country. If I 
had strong Locofoco friends at Washington, to back the nomination 
of General Taylor, I might have hoped to have been rewarded; but 
on its absence, my claims will meet with no attention. But, in truth, 
I have but little claim as far as the two battles are concerned. On 
those days I did my duty, and my duty simply. Opportunities were 
wanting — and, in fact, seldom occur to staff officers — to perform 
brilliant feats, such as ensure promotion; but if most faithful atten- 
tion to those duties for nearly a year preceding, and activity and 
energy such as (though I say it myself) have attracted attention from 
various officers, entitle me to the advancement of one grade, an empty 
honor which brings neither rank nor profit with it, then I can safely 
appeal to my brother-officers for my credentials in this case. 

I write this to you to whom, without incurring the charge of 
vanity, I can speak of my own services. I can safely say I am pretty 
much the only officer of my own corps who has done anything, and 
that, by the blessing of God enabling me to keep in good health, I 
have been actively employed ever since my arrival at Corpus Christi, 
this time last year. Therefore, on the ground of meritorious services, 
I have some claim, and this added to my position on the eighth and 
ninth (it being customary to promote the staff of a successful general, 
when they have anything in them to deserve it), would have prepared 
me not to be surprised, had they thought proper to advance me one 
grade; but as I said before, knowing how these things are done, I 
was fully prepared for my not being noticed. 

I suppose you know I am simply a Second Lieutenant, and one 
grade would only have made me a First Lieutenant, bringing no 
additional consideration or emolument; but it would give me the 
opportunity, in case of further active service, to reach the next 
grade, of Captain, which would be of essential importance to me; and 
besides, it is a public testimonial of your merits, at all times grateful 
to yourself and friends. 

There is much heart-burning in the army at the list confirmed, 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 129 

and the advancement of some officers, two grades, is considered as 
most unjust; but I think the list confirmed is most remarkably just, 
and am surprised, knowing the difficulty of selection, that so few 
mistakes were made. 

Camp near Marin, Mexico, September 17, 1846. 

I have had no opportunity to write to you since the date of my 
last (I think on the eleventh), for we have been ever since marching, 
and only halt at this point to give time to the rear to close up. You 
will doubtless see in the papers all about our march and the disposi- 
tions made. 

On the twelfth the pioneers, about ninety strong, with one hun- 
dred cavalry and twenty-five Rangers, constituting what was called 
the Pioneer Advance, left Seralvo, to proceed in advance and make 
such repairs to the road as might be required for the heavy trains to 
pass over. It was with this little detachment that I was ordered 
to go. 

It was followed on the thirteenth by the First Division, and on 
each consecutive day by the other divisions. We kept a day's march 
in advance of the First Division for two days, but on the fourteenth 
our scouts, or rangers, came upon a party of the enemy's cavalry, 
and pursued them into a rancho, when they joined a body supposed 
to be some four or five hundred. This night we encamped at a place 
called Papa-Gallos, and being fifteen miles in advance of the army, 
and having but little over two hundred men, the enemy having three 
times our number, we expected, as a matter of course, he would at- 
tempt some enterprise against us, but he left us undisturbed. 

On the fifteenth our little advance again pushed on, the enemy 
retiring, but in passing through a village, our Texas boys made a 
rush at them and delivered a fire, by which they tumbled two out of 
their saddles and got their lances and carbines. The Mexicans re- 
turned the fire without effect, and continued retiring. As they 
appeared to be increasing in force, General Taylor ordered us to 
halt until the First Division came up, so that we should be just in 
front of it, and we preserved this order of march up to our arrival 
at this place, Marin. 

This little town, of some two thousand inhabitants, we found 
entirely deserted but by a few men, from whom we understood that 
the cavalry we had seen were under the command of General To we j on, 
who had a thousand at Marin, and some five hundred advanced near 



130 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Papa-Gallos, where we first saw them, and that they were a corps of 
observation, and also were driving the people before them and out 
of the way. In Marin they ordered every one out of the town, and 
those who were unable to move their property, they turned the sol- 
diers into the houses and robbed them of everything. The poor peo- 
ple (after we had possession of the place for an hour, you could see 
the bushes and hills all around covered with women and children 
who had fled from the place, and were coming back as soon as they 
knew we were in quiet possession) were loud in their denunciations 
of their own soldiers, and expressed great gratification we had driven 
them out of the place. 

Well, here we are within twenty-five miles of Monterey, one day's 
forced march, and two easy ones, and really we know no more of the 
nature of the reception they will give us, or of their defenses, or of 
the number of troops they have, than we did when at Matamoras, 
three hundred miles distant. I have taken every pains to find out 
the truth, and have heard a thousand contradictory stories, but have 
pretty much made up my mind they will not fight, and upon this 
ground, my last letter, if you recollect, said the point of meeting be- 
tween the contending armies would depend upon the time the rein- 
forcements from the interior should reach Monterey. It is now 
believed the force at Monterey consists of the debris of Arista's army, 
with inconsiderable reinforcements not over two thousand, making 
their regular force not over four thousand men, the number of their 
irregulars not known, and we do not care for them. Now, if they 
have only four thousand, they will never stand our seven thousand; 
then, if they are going to retire, they must do it before we reach there, 
or else all their artillery and public stores will fall into our hands; 
therefore I believe they are evacuating the town at this moment, and 
we shall march in without firing a gun — that is to say, provided our 
information proves correct, that they have no larger reinforcements. 
However, conte qui conte, or as old Rough and Ready says, "Nolus 
volus," we have to go in on the 20th instant. 

We wait to-day for General Butler, 1 with the Volunteer Division, 
to come up, and to-morrow we move en masse upon the town. It 
will, I presume, take us two days to reach its vicinity, and on the 
third we will try their mettle. But I believe sincerely, as I told you 
before, that they will not resist our entrance, unless it be some skir- 
mishing between our advance and their rear. And should we take 

1 Major-General William 0. Butler, U. S. Vols. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 131 

Monterey quietly, and Saltillo, peace may be made before the two 
armies can meet again. 

By our last mail, just received, an officer, whose wife is in Pensa- 
cola, wrote to him that Santa Anna had not only entered Vera Cruz 
with the cognizance of Commodore Connor, but they had a long 
and confidential interview together. I should judge from this Santa 
Anna was favorable to adjusting the difficulty, and will do all in his 
power. I believe now I have told you all the news, which is the 
general impression we shall soon get into good quarters without much 
hard fighting. 

Be on your guard against newspaper reports, as a general rule 
false. Even in the army, in the rear divisions, they had us of the 
advance all cut to pieces, and were quite glad to see us alive when 
they came up. 

My last letter will tell you all about the brevets. You have, 
however, done injustice to Bliss' 1 merits. He was not only in the 
battle, but had his horse struck twice, and is one of the most meri- 
torious officers in the army. His position as Adjutant General 
placed him very near General Taylor, and all the despatches, corre- 
spondence, etc., have been written by him, and indeed nearly all the 
credit General Taylor has received is, in fact, due to Bliss' advice 
and counsel. Bliss is a good friend of mine, and, as I told you before, 
I was recommended for promotion. This was all General Taylor 
could do, for which I am really grateful to him. 

I wish you were in this beautiful country, for here it is magnificent, 
the air balmy and pure, all the tropical fruits growing and we are 
just entering a level table-land, which leads to the mountains, twenty- 
five miles off, but so high we can see them towering away above the 
clouds, a most magnificent sight. Indeed, were I single, I should be 
tempted to spend my days in this lovely climate. On our march 
from Seralvo I never had a covering over my head, nor anything 
but my old india-rubber cloak spread on the ground for a bed. I 
slept soundly, and have no colds or rheumatism or any of the penal- 
ties I should pay, did I do this at home. 

But I have not time to describe scenery to you, for I am of course 
much hurried, and in a marching army all is confusion and excitement. 

Give my best love to dear mother and let her consider this letter 
as addressed to herself as well as you, you, who both and alone, with 
my dear children, fill my whole heart. Be patient and resigned; let 
1 Brevet-Major William W. S. Bliss, assistant adjutant-general. 



132 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

us await God's good will, being confident He will protect us, and at 
the proper moment permit us to be reunited. My warmest prayers 
are for His blessings to be showered on you and our dear children. 

Monterey, September 25, 1846. 

Again return thanks to God for my providential escape from 
danger. Our little army appeared before this place on the 20th 
instant, finding it strongly fortified and garrisoned by about ten 
thousand men. We have been pretty much ever since engaged in 
fighting, and have suffered some terrible losses, but by skill and per- 
severance we brought the enemy to terms this afternoon, and a 
capitulation has been entered into by which a cessation of hostilities 
for two months is agreed upon, they guaranteeing peace, and they 
evacuate to-morrow, the town, leaving us masters of it, with all 
the public property. 

I am writing this in a gun-carriage, and have only five minutes to 
assure you of my perfect safety. I will soon write again. Write to 
mother. Love to all, and you may look soon now, I think, for me. 

Monterey, Mexico, September 27, 1846. 

I wrote you a few hasty lines on the twenty-fourth (misdated 
twenty-fifth) communicating to you our having taken this place, and 
promising soon to give you the particulars. I have been much occu- 
pied since, and, indeed, I believe no mail has since left. At any rate 
I assured you of my safety, and now proceed to give you particulars. 

We arrived before Monterey on the 19th instant. I was in the 
advance with General Taylor, who was seeking a suitable camping 
ground for the army, beyond the range of the enemy's guns. We 
advanced within a mile of their works, but could see no sign of their 
occupation, and began to believe reports received en route, that they 
had deserted. Some of our bold fellows, however, who pushed nearer, 
found a cavalry force, with which they exchanged shots. The Gen- 
eral, having selected a fit place for camp, ordered up the mounted 
>Texans, one thousand in number, when the enemy finding we were 
not going to push into town and be caught in a trap, opened their 
batteries on us, and fired several times without doing any injury, 
though one ball, I assure you, came closer to me than I desire it to 
do again, just passing about two feet on one side of my knee. Find- 
ing we were in range of their guns, the General withdrew the Texans, 
and selected a camp some two and a half miles from the town. The 




^ »^ f ^ XmF1LZr&&#'Js!tSg&i 



SKETCH SHOWING THE POSITION OF THE ARMY 



AT THE BATTLE OF MONTEREY 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 133 

remainder of this day was spent by the engineer officers in reconnoiter- 
ing the positions of the enemy, a duty, I assure you, sufficiently haz- 
ardous, as they were obliged to go with small parties and far from the 
camp, giving an enterprising enemy ample opportunity to cut them 
off. No such accident, however, occurred, and by night the reports 
were all in. It was found the town was most strongly fortified in the 
direction of Marin, and weak in that of Saltillo. In consequence, 
on the morning of the twentieth, while I was engaged in making a 
survey in front of the enemy's batteries, of the different positions, I 
received orders to report to General Worth, who, with his division 
(consisting of one regiment of Texas Rangers, four regiments of 
regular infantry, and two batteries of light artillery, in all about two 
thousand men), was ordered to advance upon the town in the direc- 
tion of the Saltillo road. I immediately repaired to him, found the 
column ready to move, and in a few minutes marched with it. 

We made a long detour, to avoid the batteries, and reached a 
rancho, where the command was halted, while the General and myself, 
with his staff, rode forward to reconnoitre the ground. Our advance 
was covered by about fifty Texans, and we proceeded along the road 
for two miles, till we came into the gorge through which the Saltillo 
road runs (see sketch), where the enemy were reported in large force 
in our front. Having seen all we wanted, we were about retiring, 
when they opened a fire upon us from a fence alongside of the road, 
where some of the rascals had sneaked up to cut us off, but it was 
promptly returned by the Texans, and we came quietly back to camp. 

The next morning, the twenty-first, we started early to place our- 
selves in position on the Saltillo road, by which we should cut off 
the retreat of the enemy, and have an eye to the advance of his rein- 
forcements, said to be daily expected. As we were turning the corner 
of the road entering the valley, the enemy showed himself with a 
large cavalry force, some two thousand, with some five hundred in- 
fantry, evidently intending to dispute our passage. I should, how- 
ever, observe that on the afternoon previous, as well as this morning, 
in passing along the road we had been subjected to a plunging fire 
from two pieces on the top of "Independence Hill" (see sketch), from 
which, however, we sustained no damage. Finding the enemy in 
front, General Worth sent forward the Texans, who immediately 
engaged them, supported by two companies of infantry, acting as 
skirmishers. The Mexican cavalry charged on our people most gal- 
lantly, but were received with so warm a fire as to throw them into 



134 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

confusion, and just as they were preparing for another charge, 
Colonel Duncan's battery opened on them, and at the first discharge 
strewed the ground with the dead, and they precipitately fled. 

This little affair was very brilliant, and served to raise the spirits 
of all. The enemy's loss has been since ascertained to be one hun- 
dred killed and wounded, among the killed one colonel, one captain, 
and two subalterns, several officers wounded; we had but three 
wounded. The infantry and a portion of the cavalry retired towards 
the town, but twelve hundred of the cavalry went in the direction of 
Saltillo, and have not been heard from since. Finding an appearance, 
on the part of those who went towards the town, of renewing the 
contest, the light batteries opened on them from a hill on the north 
side of the gorge, which quickly dispersed them. At the same time 
a plunging fire from a piece on the top of Federation Hill was opened 
on us, obliging us to retire out of range of the shot, from whence 
commenced our operations on the town. Our only loss from this 
fire was Captain McKavett, Eighth Infantry, who was killed, and 
two men wounded. 

You will now perceive from the sketch we were on the Saltillo 
road beyond the gorge through which it passes into town, and that 
this gorge was defended by artillery on the tops of these hills, and by 
a strong work around the Bishop's Palace, on one hill, and a redoubt 
opposite, on the other. It now became necessary to take these 
heights before we could advance upon the town. Accordingly, a 
command, consisting of two hundred Texans and four hundred regu- 
lars, was ordered to storm the summit of Federation Hill. This was 
handsomely done, though the hill was nearly a thousand feet high 
and very steep, defended by artillery and five hundred infantry. 
But so gallant was the attack, the enemy were driven from the summit 
without having time to carry their artillery, which was taken from 
them and turned upon their redoubt on the same hill, which in a 
short time was stormed and carried also, so that by night we had 
taken two of the four positions, and encamped in the gorge, as was 
designed in the morning. So much for our operations. 

I regret to say those on the opposite side, though successful, were 
attended with more disastrous results. In order to divert the atten- 
tion of the enemy from our operations, General Taylor directed 
Colonel Garland's brigade of regulars to advance on the eastern part 
of the town and cover an engineer officer, reconnoitering. In 
doing this they were obliged to pass through the cross-fire of all the 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 135 

batteries in that direction, in which they suffered very much, but 
were able to pass through and get into the suburbs of the town. 
Finding no troops here, they thought they could go through the town, 
and thus take some of the batteries in the rear. But while in the 
town, ignorant of the streets and positions, they suddenly found 
where the streets were raked by four or five guns, and the first thing 
they knew, nearly one-half their men were lying on the ground, dead 
and wounded. The slaughter here was terrific; ten of our gallant 
officers fell to rise no more, and some ten others were wounded, some 
beyond the hope of recovery. The two regiments constituting the 
brigade were literally cut to pieces, and they were obliged to retire, 
leaving the dead and wounded on the ground. Among the officers 
who fell was Captain Williams, of my corps, who was leading the 
advance. This disastrous result was retrieved partially by a portion 
of the Third Division of Volunteers, which General Taylor, hearing 
firing, had despatched to reinforce the first command. This brigade, 
consisting of the Tennessee and Mississippi regiments, not knowing 
where our people were, advanced right in the face of one battery 
(marked C), when finding themselves so near, they gallantly charged 
and took it, driving the enemy from the guns, and retaining possession 
of the place. Thus terminated the 21st of September. 

In which you will see that on our side, we had defeated the enemy, 
having superior force, in open fight, under their batteries, and taken 
from them two pieces of artillery; that on the other side, though 
suffering a repulse with great loss, yet we took from him a fort with 
four guns. The loss on our side was about twenty killed and wounded, 
one captain killed, and two officers wounded; on General Taylor's 
side, some three hundred killed and wounded, some twelve officers 
killed and eight wounded. The loss of the enemy is supposed to be 
about two hundred in killed and wounded; but the moral effect was 
great. With us they saw judgment and energy quietly but surely 
advancing; on the other side, impetuosity and fearless courage, that 
showed a determination at all sacrifice to carry everything before 
them. 

Early on the morning of the twenty-second a party of some five 
hundred regulars and Texans were sent from our division to storm 
the height of Independence Hill. By daylight they were at the sum- 
mit, driving the enemy from the position into the Bishop's Palace, 
from whence they kept up an incessant fire of musketry upon our 
people, with but little effect. Finding the Bishop's Palace too strong 



136 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

to be carried by infantry, a piece of artillery was taken to pieces and 
carried up by hand to the summit, which piece with great skill threw 
shrapnel shells (shells filled with musket balls) right into the palace 
and the open work in front. This made the place so untenable that 
the enemy undertook to drive us from the summit, and made a 
charge of cavalry and infantry up the hill. In this they were 
defeated, and, on retiring, were so vigorously pursued by our people, 
that they continued beyond the Bishop's Palace, leaving this work, 
with four pieces of artillery, in our hands, and they retired into the 
town. Thus, for to-day's work, we had the other two points, giving 
us four of the enemy's positions, with six of his guns, and the free 
entrance to the city by the Saltillo road. Our loss to-day was only 
one officer of the Texas Rangers, mortally wounded, and some five 
killed and half a dozen wounded; the loss of the enemy much more 
considerable. 

At the eastern end of the town, so crippled were they the previous 
day, they contented themselves with keeping up from the redoubt 
they had taken a vigorous fire upon the other works of the enemy 
(marked D. E. T. G. H.). 

On the 23d instant we opened a fire on the town, with the enemy's 
guns at the Bishop's Palace, and moved the gun taken in the redoubt 
on Federation Hill farther on the hill, to the point marked P. This 
fire was kept up vigorously all the morning. In the meantime the 
General sent me forward on a reconnoissance, to ascertain what bat- 
teries the enemy had in our direction. In doing this I ascertained the 
enemy had abandoned all that portion of the town in our direction, 
and had retired to the central plaza of the town, where they were 
barricaded, and all the houses occupied by their infantry. General 
Worth immediately advanced on the town and took possession, with- 
out resistance, of the plaza of La Purissima, where we found a cem- 
etery and church, which our infantry occupied, and where we placed 
an eight-inch mortar in excellent range to play into the plaza, which 
was now the enemy's last stronghold. 

After occupying the plaza of La Purissima, we threw forward our 
infantry to that portion of the town occupied by the enemy. They 
had occupied the main plaza and some two squares around it in each 
direction; they had erected across the streets solid masonry walls, 
with embrasures for guns to fire grape, sweeping the street; then all 
the houses in the neighborhood were occupied by their infantry, loop- 
holes being made to enable them to fire in any direction. Had we 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 137 

attempted to advance up the streets, as our poor fellows had done 
previously, all would have been cut to pieces; but we were more 
skillfully directed. As soon as we came near their position, we broke 
into the adjoining houses, and sent our sharpshooters on their tops, 
where, sheltered by the parapets, they could look over and pick off 
all Mexicans who showed their heads above the houses in front. 
Having thus driven the enemy from the houses in front, the engineer 
officers were engaged with picks and crowbars in making holes from 
house to house, through which our people advanced, and in this 
manner, by nightfall, we were enabled to reach within one square of 
the plaza, and rendered certain our coming to close quarters the next 
day. Our troops remained in the houses, where they ceased firing 
and were prepared to commence anew at daylight next day. 

On General Taylor's side, to-day, it was found, early in the 
morning, the fire from our fort had been so warm, the enemy had 
deserted all their other batteries, carrying their guns into the plaza. 
These were immediately occupied by our troops, and they commenced 
an advance upon the town, in the same cautious manner we had done, 
and reached by nightfall a position as near the plaza as we had done, 
so that by night we had driven the enemy from all his exterior works, 
taken eleven guns, and had approached him in the town itself, within 
one square on each side of his stronghold. He still had his citadel, 
but we were screened from its fire by the town itself. During the 
night our mortar threw shells every half an hour into the plaza, so ac- 
curately as to make many fall within a few feet of the church, their 
main magazine, and almost every one killed from six to ten soldiers. 
You see, they were so crowded in the space they occupied, that if the 
shell fell with any accuracy, its execution was terrible. So ended the 
twenty-third. I should mention the enemy endeavored to return 
our compliments, and threw shells from the citadel into the cemetery 
occupied by our mortar battery, but without any effect. 

On the morning of the twenty-fourth, as we were commencing to 
renew the assault, confident the night would give us the town, a 
white flag came from General Ampudia, asking of General Taylor 
permission to evacuate the town, as he now saw resistance was no 
longer available. General Taylor had an interview with him, in 
which Ampudia begged hard for easy terms, saying he was still 
strong, having yet five thousand men and twenty-eight pieces of 
artillery; but, understanding our Government had offered peace to 
Mexico, he was willing to make an honorable compromise between 



138 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

the armies, which would open the door to negotiations between the 
Governments, as, should things be carried to extremities, the defeated 
party would not listen to terms. 

There being something reasonable in this, and much blood having 
been shed, and there being many private persons who would suffer 
in person and property if things were carried farther, General Taylor 
gave as his ultimatum the following terms: The Mexican Army to 
evacuate the place in seven days, and retire beyond the Rinconada, 
forty miles from here, to which point we were at liberty to advance. 
The infantry and cavalry to take their arms; the artillery, six pieces 
of light-artillery; all the rest of the public property and munitions 
of war to be ours, and the town to be given up to our exclusive pos- 
session. One hour was given Ampudia to answer. At the termina- 
tion of thirty minutes he accepted, and immediately three commis- 
sioners on each side were appointed, who drew up the terms of 
capitulation, which were signed by ten o'clock that night. This re- 
sult has been caviled at by many, as it is said we had them completely 
in our power, and one more day's operations would have given us the 
town, or an unconditional surrender, and that letting these people 
off, we should only have to meet them again at Saltillo. But, for 
my part, I approve General Taylor's course. They were still very 
strong in the town, having three thousand men and twenty pieces of 
artillery, costing an immense sacrifice to subdue them. Then their 
strongest work, the citadel, with a garrison of two thousand five hun- 
dred men and eight pieces of artillery, was untouched, and would 
have required still greater loss to reduce, though I am confident both 
town and citadel would have been in our hands in a few more days. 
But our volunteer force, which had shared in the disastrous losses of 
the eastern side, were beginning to be disorganized, and already regi- 
ments were holding back, and individuals refusing to advance, and 
they could not be longer depended on. The regulars were crippled 
almost to inefficiency, and in addition, the enemy were in hourly 
expectation of reinforcements. Apart from these considerations, we 
knew Santa Anna was willing to compromise this question if he could. 
Should we act with forbearance towards the army, and give it hon- 
orable terms, it was probable we might have its voice in favor of 
peace, as the national pride, so sensitive, might not be aroused by an 
honorable capitulation. Again, it was doubtful if we should have 
gained more by pushing matters, as it was in the power of the enemy 
to run off in the night, carrying all with them which we allowed them 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 139 

to carry, except the six pieces of artillery (a trifle), and destroying 
much valuable property, now ours. Besides, there can be no doubt 
of the condition to which we had brought them, for the facts speak 
for themselves. Here was an army of six thousand men giving up 
to us a town with twenty-two pieces of artillery and a vast amount 
of the munitions of war, and retiring eighty miles to the interior and 
leaving us in a place they had attempted to defend. No army that 
was not badly whipped would have done this, and as to fighting us 
again, if they had all been made prisoners of war, we could not keep 
them, we should have been obliged to let them go, and all would have 
taken arms again, in spite of agreements and paroles; so we gained 
all we could, did away with any chance of failure, and made them 
believe they, as well as ourselves, were great people. 

It is now ascertained they had at the commencement nine thou- 
sand men and thirty-eight pieces of artillery, with strong works, and 
only the defence to make. We, with six thousand, and no heavy 
artillery for a siege-train, one hundred and thirty miles from all our 
depots and supplies, and obliged to attack in the face of all this artil- 
lery, brought them to these terms. So ended the siege of Monterey, 
an affair, I deem, most honorable to our arms. 

There was some little disposition on the part of Ampudia to 
jockey. There is no doubt the Mexicans were in a state of disorgani- 
zation and mutiny, and that he would have been forced to accept 
almost any terms General Taylor had offered to him, but our old 
General was desirous of playing a liberal and generous part by them, 
and thought it impolitic to push them too hard. 

For my part, you may rest assured, I was exceedingly rejoiced; 
many of our brave fellows slept in a nameless grave, for the bodies 
of some were never recovered; and any one who for four days and 
nights is in constant state of exposure to fire-arms of all descriptions 
will be very well satisfied to terminate so disagreeable an occupation. 

All the amateurs accompanying the army, and we have a goodly 
number, are now satisfied, and are now going home. Among them 
was Bailie Peyton, who was an attache to General Worth. Owing 
to this I saw a great deal of him, and have been much pleased with 
his wit and humor under the most trying circumstances. We would 
often express to each other what enjoyment Mr. Wise 1 would have 
here, and you can write to Mr. Wise and tell him we all, and Colonel 

1 Henry A. Wise, brother-in-law of Mrs. Meade, afterward Governor of 
Virginia. 



140 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Campbell also, of Tennessee (a very handsome fellow, who was the 
first to enter the enemy's batteries) thought of him. He was in 
Congress at the same time with Mr. Wise and Peyton. 

You will doubtless see the official reports, and the newspapers 
will be filled with anecdotes of the various attacks. I hope the 
people of the country will appreciate what we have done, and for 
myself individually, if I get the approbation of those in whose hearts 
I wish to live, it is all that I ask. 

I do not think I mentioned in the terms of capitulation, that an 
armistice had been agreed upon for two months, unless either or both 
Governments should be sooner heard from. This time, it is presumed, 
will be ample for both Governments to settle the terms of a treaty, or 
at least determine the question of peace or a continuance of the war. 
We, however, have reports through New Orleans and Vera Cruz 
that a counter-revolution against Santa Anna commenced at San 
Luis Potosi; but here they say it was a trifling affair and soon put 
down. But the rumor from the interior is, that the people of the 
City of Mexico have declared against Santa Anna, rendering doubt- 
ful his being able to maintain himself in power; all these, however, 
are rumors. I think that if Santa Anna remains in power he will 
make peace, because I believe the army that left here is desirous of 
it, and it will impress the remainder of the army, which controls 
public opinion in this country. If he is overthrown, there is no 
telling what will be the result. It will also greatly depend on the 
demands of our Government. If not too exigent, I am inclined to 
believe the great expenditure of money, and the recent loss of life, 
will induce it to be more liberal than otherwise. If we had had a 
commissioner with us, he could by this time have been near the 
City of Mexico. 

I have again, through the misfortunes of others, been placed in 
the agreeable position of head of my corps, and as long as I remain so, 
my desire to leave is greatly diminished. 

Major Craig is well and safe. What part he took in the recent 
events, I cannot say, as he was at the eastern end of the town. John 
Pemberton I saw a great deal of; he is aide to General Worth. Of 
course, being on the same staff, we were together all the time. He 
discharged his duties with great credit to himself, and was fortunate 
to receive no wound. I do not think you know any of the killed or 
wounded officers. Richard Graham, the son of Mrs. Graham in 
Washington, is very badly wounded, but hopes are entertained he 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 141 

will get over it. James Ricketts, Mrs. Robert Meade's 1 brother, is 
safe. I saw him at various times during the actions, as his regiment 
was under General Worth's command. 

Now for a few private lines, in which I wish to express to you my 
heartfelt gratitude that it has pleased God once more to pass me 
through untold dangers, and to allow me still to cling to the hope of 
once more being reunited to you. God knows what joy it brings to 
my heart to anticipate the happiness we shall have together, and the 
deep anxiety I have to behold again my blessed little children, whose 
images are as fresh in my heart as the day I left them. Tell the boys 
I will give them a long story about it all, when I get back. 

After your good father has read this letter, I wish you would com- 
municate its contents to dear mother, Major Bache and Pemberton. 

My sketch is exceedingly rough, but will serve to illustrate the 
narrative. 

Monterey, Mexico, October 5, 1846. 

I have but little information to give you. The Mexican army 
has all gone to Saltillo, where Ampudia has published a flourishing 
proclamation, assigning as a reason for his evacuating this place that 
his ammunition and provisions were exhausted; whereas we captured 
ammunition to last us two more fights and provisions enough to 
supply us some weeks. He also states he repelled all our assaults, 
and that we left on the ground some fifteen hundred killed and 
wounded. In fact, his whole proclamation is a tissue of the grossest 
falsehoods, which, of course, we expected him to make to his own 
people, to save himself. But I very much fear the thing will go 
further, and that the capitulation of Monterey will, like the conven- 
tion of Cintra, prove most unpopular. 

It is now rendered beyond a doubt that the Mexicans were en- 
tirely and completely in our power. A few hours more fighting would 
have brought about a surrender, at discretion, of the whole army. 

General Taylor was actuated by the highest motives in allowing 
them the terms he did, hoping, upon the representations of Ampudia, 
it would be the means of negotiating a peace; but from all we can 
now understand, Ampudia's whole conversation and all his statements 
prove to be false, made through fear, and with the hope (justly real- 
ized) of getting out of a bad scrape. 

The general impression now is that we will not obtain peace. If 

1 Sister-in-law of Lieutenant Meade. 



142 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

so, we have missed the opportunity of making some seven thousand 
men prisoners. Ampudia distinctly stated to General Taylor that he 
had received information from the City of Mexico that morning (the 
24th), that an American Minister was to be received; whereas Santa 
Anna's reply to Mr. Buchanan, 1 published in the Mexican journals, 
(and in Ampudia's possession), states distinctly that he cannot take 
upon himself the responsibility of making peace; it must be referred 
to the Mexican Congress, which does not meet till December. How 
then could a Minister be received before the answer of Congress? 
This proves he knew he was uttering false statements. Indeed, no 
reliance is to be placed on anything these people say. The highest 
among them know not what honor and veracity are; and it is use- 
less to expect anything from any influence brought to bear upon 
them, except fear, and our whole course must be changed ere we can 
expect to bring them to terms. Here is a third victory without re- 
sult, everything to be done over again, and our obstacles increasing 
as we advance. 

If the Government of Mexico now refuse peace, upon such terms 
as the United States are ready to offer, and they are such as the 
world will not condemn, it will be necessary for our country to make 
up its mind to a long war of sacrifice, on our part, which will be the 
longer, the less energetically it is pursued. In the first place, this 
line of operations we are now on must be abandoned after we reach 
Saltillo (seventy miles from here), for, from that point, it is two 
hundred and fifty miles to San Luis Potosi, over a barren country, 
with no permanent supplies of water, only tanks and reservoirs for 
rain-water, which they can easily destroy as we approach; and when 
we get to San Luis, we are some six hundred miles from the City 
of Mexico. 2 

Should the Government determine upon continuing on this route, 
we must take Tampico, and then, when we reach San Luis, we can 
open our communications with Tampico, some three hundred miles 
off, as far as Vera Cruz is from the city itself. 

Vera Cruz must be taken, and an attack made on the city from 
that direction. It is well to have it in conjunction with this, if the 
Government chooses, but the main attack must be on the line of 
Vera Cruz. An army of twenty-five thousand men at least, well 

1 James Buchanan, Secretary of State, U. S. Government, afterward President 
of the United States. 

2 Should be three hundred miles. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 143 

supplied with artillery and all the munitions of war, should be landed 
at Alvarado, and advance from thence on Vera Cruz, and in conjunc- 
tion with the navy take that place, from whence they should advance 
into the interior. At the same time twenty-five hundred men should 
advance from San Luis Potosi towards the same point, and some 
twenty-five hundred men are required to hold the country and occupy 
it, from Tampico to the Californias. 

It is only by doing things on this scale, vigorously, and at every 
cost of blood and money, that "an honorable peace will ever be 
conquered." Neither the Government of Mexico nor her people 
care about the occupation of the country we are now in. It is a 
positive benefit to the people; we are spending here a large portion 
of the revenues of the United States, and making money more plenty 
than it ever was before. If the Government is determined on op- 
erating on this long line, it should take full possession of every 
Department as it conquers it, overthrow all Mexican jurisdiction, 
proclaim it to the world as part of the United States, appoint all the 
necessary officers for a Territorial Government, and extend our laws 
over it, sequestrating the property of all those who left the country 
or refused to take the oath of allegiance. Then Mexico would look 
with some anxiety upon our approach, as she saw Department after 
Department lopped off, and she would be obliged to make vigorous 
efforts to defend her soil, which, if we overcome, would be arguments 
in our favor. 

But, as it is, a small band is pushed into the interior of the coun- 
try, where it is obliged to advance under every disadvantage, and 
whose success is followed by no material advantage, the country in 
our rear being as fully in the possession of Mexico as if we had not 
passed over it. We may go on in this way for five years, and not 
conquer peace. The loss of a few soldiers, and the temporary occu- 
pation of her frontier towns, is no embarrassment to Mexico; her 
capital and her vital parts must be touched. Once occupy these 
(and we can do it as readily as we operate here, if we have the pro- 
portionate means), and she will be brought to terms. 

October 6. 
I have written a long dissertation on the plans proper to be adopted 
in the event of the prosecution of the war, which now seems to be 
looked upon as certain among the best informed persons in our army, 
and among the Mexicans at this place. 



144 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

As to my personal interests, I presume, of course, that I am to 
remain here till it is all over, unless I make an application to be 
relieved, which I cannot bring my mind to do. They have a joke 
among the officers, that it is bad business for any officer to be sent 
here to command me, for he will be sure to be killed; and it is strange. 
Of the three superior officers who have been sent here at various 
times, the first (Captain Cram) had to leave the country soon after 
his arrival, on account of ill-health; the second (poor Blake) shot 
himself; and the third (Captain Williams) fell in the recent operations 
against Monterey; leaving me each time the senior officer of Topo- 
graphical Engineers. General Worth, with whom I served during 
the recent operations, has been pleased to speak well of me in his 
report, and when I thanked him for it, he observed " that he trusted 
the thing would not end there, and I might rest assured his best 
efforts would be exerted in my behalf." 

October 9. 

I have nothing new to tell you this morning. There is a report 
that General Canaliso has been placed in command of the Mexican 
forces; that he has arrived at San Luis, with a large army, and or- 
dered Ampudia to fall back from Saltillo to that place. It is hard 
to tell what inference is to be drawn from this. It is a proper meas- 
ure in the event of peace, and equally so in case the war continues, 
for it forces us to march some four hundred miles before we can get 
to them, which will take us, with our movements, over a month; 
and as the armistice lasts two months, they will have three to fortify 
and prepare to make their stand at a point three hundred miles 
nearer the capital than Saltillo is, so that no deduction can be made 
from this move, and it is only a report, of which there are a thousand 
in circulation each day, all contradicted the succeeding days. 

Last night's mail brings orders for Captain Linnard of our corps 
to repair here, so that my enjoyment of seniority will last but a 
short time, as I suppose Captain Linnard will be here in the course 
of a week or two. 

October 10. 
The news from Saltillo to-day is to the effect that the people of 
that place have positively refused to allow their town to be fortified, 
pointing to Monterey, which is naturally much stronger, and saying 
that if the Mexicans could not defend that place, with all its strength, 
it is useless to try at Saltillo. What effect this argument will have 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 145 

upon their army is unknown, but rumor says they are retiring to 
San Luis, and have abandoned the pass of Las Muertas, on the road 
from here to Saltillo, which they had commenced to fortify. 

It appears that Canaliso, who was reported to have assumed the 
head of the army, is in Madrid, but papers from the City of Mexico, 
as late as the 14th ultimo, contain a proclamation of Santa Anna's, 
in which he modestly declines the supreme power, in order to place 
himself at the head of the army, to conquer or die. This is easily 
understood. Some individual named Salis, or Salisar, is temporarily 
placed at the head of affairs, a puppet of Santa Anna's, to bear the 
brunt of disaster, should things turn out badly, he taking all the 
credit as director, should the result be fortunate. It is supposed 
that whoever makes peace will be overthrown, and we know that 
whoever continues the war, and is unsuccessful, will have to yield 
to the popular will. Santa Anna, by throwing the responsibility of 
the Government on Salis, and of the army on some general (for nobody 
supposes he is coming to try his fortune), endeavors to trim his sails 
to the breeze of public opinion, and save himself by sacrificing his 
creatures. 

Monterey, October 13, 1846. 

Poor Richard Graham died to-day, making the fifteenth officer 
killed in the attack on Monterey. This will be a sad blow to his 
poor mother. 

Great indignation now prevails in the army at orders recently 
received from Washington, directing General Taylor to send General 
Patterson to Tampico with a large portion of his (General Taylor's) 
force, to take that place. This is considered an outrage upon all 
military propriety, cutting up a commanding general's force, with- 
out reference to him, or the circumstances in which he may find 
himself. 

Monterey, October 20, 1846. 
I regret to tell you my boasted good health has been slightly 
disturbed. Soon after writing my last letter to you, I was taken 
with chills and fever, a disease very prevalent at this moment in the 
army, and attributed to the reaction from the active and exciting 
life we have been leading, and to the injudicious use of the fruits 
of the country. To the latter cause I attribute my attack, for I 
indulged without any discretion in the use of oranges and pome- 



146 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

granates, not dreaming they could be of any injury. The disease, 
however, is of a very mild character. I broke mine after the second 
attack, and have now been six days without a return, and hope with 
care to avoid it in future. Nearly one-third the army is down with 
it, and many of the poor wounded fellows have been attacked. It is 
said to be a very common disease at this place, though for what 
reason I cannot tell, for this appears the garden spot of the earth, 
the air purity itself, and no source of malaria visible. I wish you 
could be here to enjoy the delicious climate, to see the exquisite 
landscapes presented by the towering mountains, and the rich and 
fertile valley at their feet. 

I believe I told you I had been living in town since the capitula- 
tion. At first I lived in a house with General Worth, who has shown 
the most uniform kindness to me; but not wishing to trespass too 
far upon his civility, and the death of Captain Williams making me 
senior, and thus detaching me from General Worth's staff and re- 
attaching me to headquarters, I left General Worth's house, and 
have taken possession of one left in his charge by the proprietor, 
General Ortega, of the Mexican Army. This is considered one of 
the handsomest houses in town, and is furnished in a style considered 
in this country magnificent. The custom of the country is to furnish 
most plainly. Generally a table and a few chairs constitute the 
furniture of the parlors, and a bed, with a few chairs, that of the bed- 
room. But General Ortega, who is a man of wealth, and has been 
Governor of this Department (Nuevo Leon), a traveled man withal, 
has gone to great expense in furnishing his mansion, and I am now 
deriving the benefit of his liberality. The house has six rooms in it, 
as the subjoined sketch shows. The parlor, a long room, about the 
size, I should suppose, of the two in Fourth Street, is furnished with 
two mahogany pier-tables (French), with large mirrors over them. 
In each of the four corners are corner-pieces (tables), with vases 
filled with beautiful wax flowers, covered with glass. There are two 
mahogany centre-tables, cane-bottom and painted chairs, a mahogany 
sofa at one end, with a strip of ingrain carpet in front — a great 
luxury, and the only carpet I have seen in the town. The windows, 
uniformly open to the air, here have glass doors (of very large panes) 
to keep out the air when cold; the doors are all glass doors. A very 
splendid French clock, with ormolu ornaments, is on a table at the 
foot of the parlors, and the walls are hung all around with beautiful 
colored engravings (French), illustrating historical events in Spanish 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 147 

history. Then with curtains (narrow strips) of red and yellow, hung 
from gilt arrows, you have the parlor, the tout ensemble of which, I 
assure you, is exceedingly refreshing to one who has seen nothing like 
civilization for fifteen months. The bed-rooms have French bed- 
steads. There is no house linen, or any other furniture but such as 
stands in the rooms. My messmates are Lieutenant Scarret, of the 
Corps of Engineers, with whom I lived at Matamoras, and a Lieu- 
tenant Pope, of my own corps. We each of us have our own servants, 
one of whom is cook, the other hostler, and the third plays waiter; 
so that we are quite comfortable, and, from our luxurious quarters, 
the envy of the army. Unfortunately we have no mess furniture 
but our old tin camp equipage; but we manage to get along with 
this in preference to paying the enormous sum it would require to 
fit us out with more suitable apparatus. Besides, our stay being 
uncertain, it would be absurd to purchase articles perfectly useless 
to us when we leave. 

General Taylor, as usual, is in camp three miles from town, and 
has with him two-thirds of the army. General Worth, with his divi- 
sion, all regulars, occupies the town and keeps it in order. In con- 
sequence of this arrangement, good order has hitherto prevailed; no 
liquor is permitted to be sold to the soldiers, and no person allowed 
to reside in the town who cannot give a satisfactory account of him- 
self. By these means it is hoped to exclude the gambling shops and 
groggeries that disgraced Corpus Christi and Matamoras, and which 
were the fertile sources of murder and robbery, together with every 
other crime. It is also hoped that the quiet and security thus given 
to life and property will induce the inhabitants, all of whom have 
left the place, to return, when we hope to have some gayety and 
amusement. This place is said to contain many wealthy and agree- 
able families; but the fears of the assault caused them all to fly to 
Saltillo and other places in the neighborhood of the city. None 
have as yet returned, for the volunteers have made themselves so 
terrible by their previous outrages as to have inspired the Mexicans 
with a perfect horror of them, and until they are assured of their 
security they will not return from their hiding places. 

I have but little to add to my surmises (in the shape of intelligence) 
in former letters. It is now rendered beyond a doubt that Santa 
Anna is at San Luis, with eight thousand regulars, has drawn in there 
Ampudia with his eight thousand, and is busily engaged reorganizing 
and putting in order these sixteen thousand men, at the same time 



148 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

that he is making the most vigorous efforts to raise thirty thousand 
volunteers. He will not advance, it is said, beyond San Luis, but 
ascertaining our news from the mail captured from us (which had 
despatches directing General Taylor's attention to Tampico), it is 
said he has sent a large force to Tampico (the rest he keeps at San 
Luis), and will hold himself in readiness with a reserve to go to either 
point threatened. This shows him a good soldier, and should the 
war continue, I have no doubt my anticipations of his energy will 
all be realized. 

Monterey, Mexico, October 27, 1846. 
General Taylor told me, a few days ago, he had written to Wash- 
ington, dissuading the Government against continuing operations 
any farther on this line, it being too long; and requiring, in case it 
insists upon his advancing in this direction, that he be furnished with 
twenty thousand well disciplined men for the marching army, and 
five thousand to cover his rear and line of communications. At the 
same time he insists upon having more wagons and means of trans- 
portation furnished him. At the same time he advises the Govern- 
ment to allow him to take Tampico, and to hold the line of the Sierra 
Madre from Tampico to this place. Then, with General Wool at 
Monclova and Chihuahua, and General Kearney at Santa Fe and in 
California, we shall hold military possession of five of Mexico's 
provinces. Then let her come and take them from us, and we await 
her action. 

This plan of an armed occupation, I, individually, am opposed 
to, upon the ground of its never having any end; for Mexico, though 
she will hardly undertake to drive us out, will nevertheless be always 
talking about it, and making preparations, which will compel us to 
be always prepared by having a large army on this frontier. Then, 
again, the expense will be enormous of maintaining such an army as 
it will be absolutely necessary we should have, besides the opposition 
there would be on the part of the North to see such immense increase 
of Southern territory. I hope these reasons will induce the Govern- 
ment, even should it accede to his "armed occupation," to continue 
active operations against Mexico by sending an army to Vera Cruz, 
and advancing on the capital, and compelling them at every sacrifice, 
by force of arms, to sue for peace. In the first place, I think it due 
to our national honor, after all the bluster we have made, to show 
them we could do what we said we would; and then, after offering 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 149 

them peace, and they rejecting it, we should at least make an effort 
to compel them. We hear nothing from Santa Anna at San Luis. 

A sad accident happened yesterday, which has thrown a gloom 
over the camp, and by which the army is likely to lose one of its most 
gallant officers. Captain Randolph Ridgely, of the Light Artillery, 
was yesterday thrown from his horse, while riding in the street, and 
falling on his head, received some injury in the brain, which it is 
feared will terminate his life. This young officer is the one who, in 
my opinion, most distinguished himself in the affairs of the 8th and 
9th of May. He commanded Ringgold's battery on the 9th, and 
gallantly drove it up within two hundred yards of the Mexican artil- 
lery, unlimbered his pieces, and returned their fire, all in the face of 
their eight pieces of artillery. In our recent operations he was 
equally distinguished for his cool and undaunted bravery, and it 
seems hard, after passing with so much credit through these three 
affairs, he should finally die the inglorious death that threatens him. 
He is a son of General Ridgely, of Baltimore; very handsome, and 
distinguished for his fine manners and courteous affability. He was 
the young man who brought Rebecca McLane to mother's party, 
given to you as a bride in Washington. He is universally looked 
upon as the preux chevalier of the army. 

I have entirely recovered from my chills and fever — in fact, 
having been well ever since I broke them, having had only two at- 
tacks. Almost every one has had them, even the poor wounded 
fellows in hospital, and many have died in consequence. The medical 
officers say that this climate is unfavorable to the healing of wounds, 
and that they have lost many who were only slightly wounded, and 
would, without doubt, have recovered, had they been in the United 
States. 

By the time this reaches you the official reports will have been 
published. General Taylor has again (much to the dissatisfaction 
of the army) made a wholesale business of mentioning names, and 
has made no distinctions as to individuals; so, when he recommends 
promotions, he will follow the same plan, and begin at the highest 
and name all his commanding officers, from generals down to colonels 
(he having an awful respect for rank), whether they do anything or 
not. Thus, at the Resaca de la Palma, the action was fought entirely 
by the platoon officers, the younger members of the army, and yet 
only two received promotion, all the rewards being given to the old 
men of rank, some of whom were not in the action; but General 



150 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Taylor mentioned them all, because they were in command of regi- 
ments. 

We are all very anxious to see the papers from the United States, 
for we, on the ground, never know who are the heroes of the affairs 
until we see the papers giving an account of the battle. I think 
General Worth will be the great hero, and will without doubt be 
made a major general. His success here will do away with all the 
bad consequences of his folly opposite Matamoras, which, I believe, 
he now most sincerely regrets himself. 

You tell me in your last letter that the children were all well. 
God grant, in His mercy, they may continue so, as well as yourself, 
for whose safety and happiness I ever pray. It pains me to be unable 
to give you any definite idea of my return; I am as much in the dark 
as yourself. If there is a cessation of active operations, and an armed 
occupation goes into effect, I shall endeavor to get away. If active 
operations are continued, and there is a prospect of again meeting 
the enemy, I must remain and take my chance. 

Monterey, November 4, 1846. 

I heard of the arrival last night at the camp of Major James 
Graham, as bearer of despatches to General Taylor, and an orderly 
has just handed me a letter from Edward Ingraham, 1 of the 13th 
October, written at Washington, and telling me they had received 
the intelligence of the affair of Monterey. Major Graham I must 
go out to the camp immediately to see. I understand the purport 
of his despatches is a disapproval of the armistice, and orders for 
General Taylor to prosecute the war with vigor and continue his 
advance. So there is an end to all peace, and God knows now when 
we shall have it. 

What we are going to do no one can tell. It seems the prevalent 
opinion that the march to San Luis is impracticable, from want of 
water and supplies; so Tampico will, without doubt, be the next 
point of attack. We shall find the Mexicans prepared, in large force, 
well fortified, and with plenty of artillery, so that we may anticipate 
warm work. 

Monterey, November 10, 1846. 
Another week has passed, and mail day again arrived, but with 
it the destruction of all hopes of peace, at least for the present. Since 

1 Nephew of Lieutenant Meade. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 151 

my last I have received your letters of the 6th and 9th ultimo, the 
latter bearing evident traces of the excitement you were in, owing 
to the uncertainty of affairs here. 

Of course, with the intelligence of our victory, you were informed 
of its barrenness, the Government having despatched Major Graham 
to have the armistice immediately annuled. It does not disapprove 
of General Taylor's terms of capitulation, but it is pretty well under- 
stood it only desisted because it wished to feel the public pulse, 
before it committed itself. 

That we had the Mexicans completely in our power, and could 
have slaughtered the greater part of them before they could have 
made their escape, was well known to the whole army. It was no 
military necessity that induced General Taylor to grant such liberal 
terms, but a higher and nobler motive. First, to grant an oppor- 
tunity to the two Governments to negotiate for peace, knowing, as 
he did, that should he destroy the Mexican army, the Government 
would never listen to overtures of peace under the disgrace. Sec- 
ondly, to stop the unnecessary effusion of blood, not only of soldiers, 
but of old and infirm women and children, whom necessity kept in 
the city, and who were crowded with the troops in the small space 
they had retired to, and were surrounded by our troops, from whom 
every shot told. Thirdly, as a tribute of respect to the gallantry of 
the Mexicans, who had defended their place as long as it was in their 
power. 

As to the armistice, it was nothing, no loss of time, for we are not 
prepared now, and could not have been in less time, to advance. 
As to the army, we might have secured their arms, but what to do 
with seven thousand prisoners! We could not send them to the 
United States, nor could we guard them here; we should have been 
obliged to release them upon some kind of engagement not to serve 
again, and this they would have violated upon the first opportunity. 

But it was the hope of peace resulting from it, which outweighed 
all other considerations with the commanding general; it was the 
hope of inducing the Mexican Government, by not pressing too hard 
its army, and granting it easy terms, by soothing their mortified 
vanity, to listen to the offers of our Government for negotiation. It 
has resulted unsuccessfully, and of course, as in all military move- 
ments, want of success damns it; but had peace followed, the grati- 
tude of the Government and laudations of the people would have 
been without bounds. 



152 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

The old gentleman appears quite satisfied, says he has done his 
duty, and his conscience is easy. He expresses himself ready to 
leave the field whenever the Government desire it, and I really be- 
lieve he would be quite satisfied to be recalled; for he finds himself 
called upon to perform impossible things, and has not even the con- 
trol of his own forces. The cabinet at Washington, profiting by the 
history of the Aulic Council, is manceuvering his troops for him, and 
at Washington, entirely independent of his wishes and views, organ- 
izing expeditions for Tampico, even going so far as to designate the 
troops and their commanders. To-be-sure, it is well understood how 
this is done, by the mighty engine of political influence, that curse 
of our country, which forces party politics into everything. 

General Patterson and others are good Democrats; they are in- 
dignant that General Taylor should have left them in the rear when 
he carried more troops than he could feed. They complain at 
Washington, and forthwith General Patterson and Co. are directed 
to proceed against Tampico, and General Patterson informed before 
his commanding general knows anything about it. Well may we be 
grateful that we are at war with Mexico ! Were it any other power, 
our gross follies would have been punished severely before now. 

General Taylor, of course, has to succumb, and the Tampico 
expedition is to be immediately prosecuted. General Patterson goes 
from Camargo, in command of about one thousand regular troops, 
and some two or three thousand volunteers, all now on the Rio 
Grande. He marches direct to Tampico. General Taylor, however, 
does not design that he shall have it in his power, from ignorance or 
other causes, to fail; therefore he will leave here with a column of 
some two thousand men and artillery, light and heavy, and will join 
General Patterson before he reaches Tampico, when both columns 
united, and under General Taylor's command, will operate against 
the town, in conjunction with the navy, if the latter have it in its 
power to do anything. 

In the meantime General Worth, with three regiments of infan- 
try and one light battery of artillery, leaves day after to-morrow for 
Saltillo, which place he will occupy for the present. He will, in the 
course of a few weeks, be reinforced by General Wool and his com- 
mand, whose expedition to Chihuahua (another affair of the Aulic 
Councils) has proved an utter failure, as he finds he cannot get to 
Chihuahua without first going to Saltillo, and then has some six 
hundred miles to go back to reach Chihuahua, and no enemy but dis- 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 153 

tance to encounter. So General Taylor, who has abstained from any 
interference with him up to this moment (though under his com- 
mand), wishing the views of the Aulic Council to have full swing, 
now that General Wool reports that he cannot get to his destination 
without advancing beyond General Taylor's command, and consum- 
ing his provisions and supplies, and that then he must go back again, 
as far as he came almost. General Taylor, I understand, directs him 
to halt at Saltillo, which will make at that point a force of between 
four and five thousand men under Generals Wool and Worth. 

Major General Butler will remain here with some twenty-five 
hundred men, volunteers and regulars. At this place there will be 
a large depot of supplies of all kinds. General Taylor will himself 
go to Saltillo, with General Worth's column, and after looking around 
and having the country reconnoitered in the direction of San Luis 
Potosi, he will return here, and go down to Tampico (by the road of 
Linares and Victoria), in time to meet General Patterson. 

I shall accompany General Taylor to Saltillo, and return with 
him, and accompany him to Tampico, unless Captain Linnard should 
in the meantime arrive, and he is daily expected, when some other 
disposition not now anticipated may be made of me. 

So much for our movements, considered by some injudicious, 
because our force is scattered over an immense extent of country, 
taking time to concentrate it, and giving the Mexican general, if he 
has any enterprise, the opportunity of directing his masses against a 
portion of it, and overwhelming it before it can be reinforced, after 
the plan of Napoleon. 

On the other side, it is urged that the Mexicans have proved 
themselves utterly destitute of enterprise, and could not be brought 
to act in this vigorous way, and that if they did, the forces at these 
places, with slight defenses, are sufficiently strong to keep off the 
whole nation. In my own judgment both parties err, the one attrib- 
uting too much, and the other too little, to the Mexicans. 

I presume that General Taylor's idea is to hold this country to 
Saltillo, and keep his troops ready to carry out the orders of the 
Government, to which he has communicated the impracticability of 
moving on San Luis from Saltillo, owing to the length of the road, 
without provisions and without water. At the same time he will 
take Tampico, and then we shall have full possession of the country 
on this side of the Sierra Madre. If the Government directs him, in 
spite of all obstacles, to advance on San Luis, he will have his force 



154 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

at Saltillo ready to do it. Should it turn its attention to Vera Cruz, 
as it is to be hoped it will, he will have a force at Tampico, ready to 
take shipping to that place. 

As to the intelligence from the interior, it is contradictory. An 
Englishman of some shrewdness arrived a few days ago, who says 
Santa Anna is making every effort to raise an army of forty thousand 
men, but progresses very slowly; that at present he has only some 
twelve thousand, and they almost disorganized; that they want 
money, arms, clothing, and almost everything; that Santa Anna has 
determined to diminish his line of operations, so as to force us to 
encounter all the disadvantages of distance; that he has recalled 
his troops from Tampico, not wishing to hazard a defeat there; that 
fortifications are being made at San Luis, Zacatecas, and other places 
along his line; and that they expect the next affair to be at San Luis, 
supposing we will immediately advance on that point. All this looks 
plausible enough, but I place no confidence in any Mexican news I 
hear, and I can hardly believe they will abandon Tampico, at least 
before we make a demonstration on it. 

No one now talks of peace, but all conversation is directed to 
the movements in advance and the anticipations incident thereto. 
There are still some few stubborn spirits left, who say they will not 
give up all hope of peace until they see the action of the Mexican 
Congress, about to meet; that they trust the Congress will have the 
good sense to force the generals and the army to make peace. But 
for myself, I have no such hope; I fear the Mexican character for 
overweening vanity is of such a nature that the more you whip them, 
the less disposed they will be to arrange matters, and that we have 
before us a long and tedious war, involving consequences to us not 
now anticipated. God in His mercy grant I may be wrong, and that 
the good sense of both nations may bring about the accommodation 
of a dispute, the continuance of which injures both, while neither 
can possibly derive any benefit. For myself, individually, you know 
my sentiments; opposed, at first, to this war, brought on by our 
injustice to a neighbor, and uncalled-for aggression, she, in her stu- 
pidity and folly, giving our rulers plausible excuses for their conduct; 
but when once in it, I should and have desired to see it conducted in 
a vigorous manner, and brought to a speedy conclusion by its being 
carried on with energy well directed. But such has not been the 
case, nor will it ever be so, as long as generals are made in the count- 
ing-house and soldiers on farms. 



MEXICAN. WAR LETTERS 155 

As to dear Sargie's education, it is impossible for me to advise 
you, ignorant as I am. of his disposition and character. I would 
not force him; I would rather he grew up ignorant than have his 
temper destroyed by unnecessary exertions at his early age. As to 
what any other child does is a matter for its parents, and not us; I 
would never bring up a child on any model, for children are as differ- 
ent from each other as is the sun from the moon, and what may be 
very proper for one is the ruin of another. 

I forgot to mention that Major Graham was sent by General 
Taylor to communicate the termination of the armistice to the 
Mexican army. It was hoped he would have advanced beyond Sal- 
tillo, and thus had an opportunity of reconnoitering the road, but I 
understand he returned last night, having found persons at Saltillo, 
waiting for him, who received his despatches. 

Monterey, November 13, 1846. 

I take advantage of the return of Major Graham to give you in- 
telligence of my movements and of our affairs here. General Taylor 
was to have gone day before yesterday to Saltillo, and I to accompany 
him, as I told you in my last letter; but the day previous an express 
came direct from Matamoras, across the country, with a note from 
Robert McLane, saying he had arrived at Matamoras, bearer of de- 
spatches to the General, which radically modified those sent by Major 
Graham, that, it not being deemed prudent for him to cross the 
country, he sent the note to advise the General, and would himself 
come by the usual route up the river to Camargo. The General 
postponed all movements till after his arrival, and we were in a state 
of great excitement for two days. Major Graham's despatches or- 
dered an immediate advance into the enemy's country, and a radical 
modification was presumed by many to be a peaceable measure; 
others, again, thought it was a change of direction to Vera Cruz; 
and many were the surmises, the hopes, and the fears, upon the 
occasion. Yesterday Master Bob made his appearance, and all that 
has transpired is the reordering of the movements upon Saltillo. 

General Worth left this morning with three regiments of regulars 
and one field battery of artillery (about one thousand men). Gen- 
eral Taylor will go in a few hours, escorted by about two hundred 
and fifty dragoons, and I shall accompany him. 

Captain Linnard arrived day before yesterday, but is very sick 
with a congestive fever, and unable to attend to any duty. 



156 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

The General, I understand, simply proposes to go to Saltillo to 
see the place; probably I shall be sent to make a reconnoissance in 
advance of it, in the direction of San Luis, and then he will return 
here, and I suppose go to Tampico. Before the arrival of Captain 
Linnard he said he should require my services at Tampico, but now 
I do not know my destination, and as General Worth, who is to be 
left at Saltillo, is all the time applying for me, I should not be sur- 
prised were I left with him. 

The purport of McLane's despatches is not known, but from all 
I can gather, the modification consists in orders to desist operating 
on the line of San Luis farther than Saltillo, then to take Tampico, 
after which, my notion is, we shall go to Vera Cruz. However, 
before Tampico is reduced, both the Mexican and American Con- 
gress will have met, and things may be changed. 

I have met a great loss in my friend Lieutenant Scarritt, Corps 
of Engineers, who is obliged to leave the country on account of ill 
health. We have been associated together for a long time, and fought 
together on the 8th and 9th of May, and here. He is a good soldier 
and a fine gentleman, and I shall feel much the loss of his society. 
I have told him, should he go to the North, to find you out in Phila- 
delphia, and that you would know all about him. 

Monterey, November 24, 1846. 
My last letter was dated on the 13th instant, and was written 
just on the eve of my departure for Saltillo. Major Graham promised 
to take it with him, so I presume it will reach you in safety. Also 
Robert McLane, who said he was going direct to Philadelphia, prom- 
ised to call and see you on his arrival, and tell you all about me. 
You, therefore, will be in better luck than myself, for I suppose you 
will receive all my letters, and have verbal accounts of me, whereas 
I find on my return no mails have arrived in my absence, and to-night, 
letters for others, as late as the 31st of October, without any for me, 
my last date being the 9th of October. I know, of course, you have 
written, and attribute my misfortune to the negligence of the post- 
masters between here and Matamoras, who seem to do just as they 
please about forwarding the letters of officers. Some kind friend on 
the route has imagined I have gone to Tampico, or that I am killed 
perhaps, and that there is no necessity to send my letters forward; 
there must be some such reason as this, the fact being I receive no 
letters, and know I ought to get them. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 157 

We had a very pleasant trip to Saltillo, making it in four marches. 
The road passes through a valley for nearly the whole distance, 
having an average breadth of some six miles. This valley is without 
water, and very barren, the mountains rising on each side to the 
height of some two thousand feet, forming a grand, though gloomy 
picture. About half-way, some thirty miles from here, we came to 
the famous pass of the Rinconada, so much talked of previous to 
our march to Monterey, and where we were to have another Ther- 
mopylae We found the pass naturally very strong; but the works 
the Mexicans had commenced were so injudiciously placed that we 
could, I think, have carried them without much difficulty. Then 
the pass could have been turned on both sides, and by turning it, 
we could have cut off the supply of water from the troops occupying 
it, as the nearest water is six miles in rear of the pass. The Mexicans, 
therefore, very wisely abandoned it, and, indeed, this bugbear, like 
all preceding it, turns out to be a trifling affair, after all. 

We found Saltillo a very pretty place, though not so beautifully 
situated as Monterey. It is built on the side of a hill, or piece of 
table-land, which traverses the valley at this point. The top of the 
table-land is an extensive plain, rocky and barren. The town is laid 
out in squares, after the fashion of all Mexican towns, with a grand 
plaza, having on one side the Cathedral. This building is very fine, 
having attached to it five chapels, all with magnificent altar-pieces. 
The Catholic Churches of Mexico are entirely different from those 
of Europe. The altar-pieces, as they are called, consist of the most 
elaborate wood-work, gilded, which occupies the whole wall of the 
church (against which is placed the altar), from the floor to the ceil- 
ing. It looks, to one accustomed to more chaste ornaments, like 
gingerbread work; but when you see a wall, some forty or fifty feet 
high, covered with this mass of gold (apparently), worked into col- 
umns, pilasters, etc., having niches in which are placed figures the 
size of life, representing our Saviour, the apostles, saints and others, 
the evening sun shining on it has an effect you cannot but consider 
grand, even though a studied criticism would pronounce it gaudy. 

In the Cathedral of Saltillo we saw a great number of wax figures, 
the size of life, used upon various occasions, such as the dead Christ, 
our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico; our Lady of 
Grief, whose assistance is always invoked in time of affliction. Some 
of these are well executed, but the greater part look like big wax- 
dolls, causing no sensation but that of ridicule. Then there is a 



158 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

great deal of bad taste displayed in painting curtains on the walls, 
instead of having rich drapery, in wooden candelabra, gaudily painted, 
such as you see at a circus, hanging alongside of magnificent silver 
ones; and all such things as these, constant steps from the sublime 
to the ridiculous. Still, upon the whole, the imagination is affected 
on entering one of these large buildings (the proportions of which 
are generally good), when it is filled with a crowd of devotees, male 
and female, the grand altar crowded with priests and assistants, the 
organ pealing forth the music of the Church, and all seemingly in 
sincere devotion. 

Besides the Cathedral, there are four other chapels, attached to 
monasteries. These I did not see, not having time, for the General 
sent me on a reconnoissance the day after our arrival, and I was 
absent on it three days, going about twenty-five miles in front of 
Saltillo, keeping up my reputation of always being among those who 
penetrate farthest into the country. I went to examine some moun- 
tain passes where, we were given to understand, we should all be 
cut up; but I found them simple affairs, no obstacles whatever, as, 
even should the enemy attempt to hold them, they could be turned 
in various directions. 

Upon my return from the reconnoissance, the General returned 
to this place, so that I had but little time to examine Saltillo. We 
found the town very full of people, none having left it but the gov- 
ernment employees, who were ordered to do so. In consequence of 
this we found many of the better class of Mexicans whom we had not 
hitherto seen. Generally their deportment was not so humble as at 
Monterey, and they attempted to extort exorbitant prices for the 
supplies the General demanded of them; but the old gentleman 
treated them without ceremony, and he ordered to be seized all the 
supplies that were in the town, ascertained their owners, and then 
offered them the market prices previous to our arrival, or nothing 
at all. They very wisely determined to take his prices, and there the 
affair ended. 

While here he received a reply from Santa Anna to his communi- 
cation announcing the cessation of the armistice. It is a very diplo- 
matic note, in which he tells the General that, " whether the terms of 
the capitulation were founded upon the necessity of the case, or upon 
the noble motive (as the General says they were) of opening the door 
for negotiations, he can assure him it is needless to think of peace 
while an armed North American treads the soil of Mexico, or an armed 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 159 

vessel threatens her coast; however, that the National Congress will 
meet in a few weeks, and upon that august body will devolve the 
responsibility of arranging this question." This is evidently for 
"Bunkum," about the armed North Americans, for Santa Anna 
knows well enough that no government in the world would withdraw 
its troops in time of war, to await negotiations, and his reference to 
the Congress evidently indicates, to my mind, that he is acting in 
good faith, and is himself desirous of peace. 

My views of Santa Anna are the same now as expressed to you 
from Seralvo, when I first heard of his return. // he can, he will 
make peace; but he must first establish himself firmly in power, and 
it is idle for those in Washington to have expected him to make peace 
and barter away the territory of the nation the moment he set his 
foot upon the soil, and because he did not do so, accuse him of treach- 
ery, through the public journals. We have undoubted information 
of his having already collected some thirty-five thousand men at 
San Luis, while they are busy fortifying. But I doubt if he will ad- 
vance from there, and my impression is that this large army is in- 
tended more for his own purposes, and against his own people than 
against us. 

Monterey, November 27, 1846. 

An extraordinary express being about to start for Camargo, I 
take advantage of it to send you a few lines, giving you intelligence 
of my movements up to the latest date. 

General Taylor has received official communication from Com- 
modore Perry, announcing the occupation of Tampico, on the 14th 
instant, by a portion of the squadron under his command, and asking 
that a garrison from the army may be sent to relieve the seamen and 
mariners now occupying the place. Some fifteen hundred or two 
thousand men, with a large supply of heavy and light artillery, were 
immediately despatched from Matamoras, and we may now consider 
ourselves in full possession of the line of the Sierra Madre. What 
change this will make in our operations is not yet known. Of course, 
there is no necessity for General Taylor to go to Tampico with so 
large a column as he had intended taking when resistance was ex- 
pected, but I am under the impression now that he will go as far as 
Victoria, a town on the road from here to Tampico, and about two 
hundred and fifty miles from this place, and one hundred from Tam- 
pico. In going down this road he will take possession of the towns 
of Caideretta, Linares and others, examine the passes through the 



160 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

mountains, of which there are said to be several, though only mule- 
paths, and ascertain in person the truth of a report recently brought 
to us, that General Urrea is at Victoria with a considerable force, 
constituting an army of observation. 

The abandonment of Tampico is a sign of weakness on the part 
of the enemy, though it is good policy, if Santa Anna was doubtful 
of his power to hold it. His position, his life, all, depend on his first 
effort, whether offensive or defensive, being successful, and he had 
better abandon half the country to us than attempt resistance and 
be defeated, for this would be his ruin. 

Our latest intelligence from San Luis was brought by some Texan 
prisoners, taken on our march from Camargo here, and released by 
Santa Anna, on the application of General Taylor, who released four 
commissioned officers and one hundred men, taken during the affair 
here, without exchanges and without pledges. 

These prisoners say Santa Anna has some twenty-seven thousand 
men at San Luis, that they are fortifying the place, but the rumor is 
that he will give us battle in an open plain some fifteen miles this 
side, and in case of defeat, not presumed by them within the range 
of possibility, he will retire upon the town. The great idea is to cut 
us up with masses of cavalry. Such good luck as meeting them in 
the open plain is, I fear, not in store for us. As to their cavalry, they 
know too well the capacity of our light artillery to attempt anything 
of that kind; indeed, we have the most perfectly secure feelings, as 
far as their cavalry is concerned; but I fear the want of water on the 
road will prevent our advance on San Luis, the more to be regretted 
because I firmly believe that could we get there now, and take the 
place, as I am sure we would, the road would be open to the City of 
Mexico. 

The journals in the United States do not seem to appreciate the 
value of the victory of Monterey. By the battles of the Palo Alto 
and Resaca, the enemy were forced to retire to the Sierra Madre, 
some two hundred miles from the Rio Grande, but by the defeat at 
Monterey they have been compelled to retire to San Luis, distant 
four hundred miles, leaving open to us more than one-half the whole 
Republic, and I am certain that could we defeat them at San Luis, 
three hundred miles from the capital, our road would be open to it. 

It is probably for the best as it is, for the delay will give time for 
the Mexican Congress to meet, and it is not impossible that it may 
have the good sense to accept the offers of peace of the United States. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 161 

Monterey, December 2, 1846. 

I did not write by the last mail, being very much occupied in 
making some drawings for General Taylor, which he desired to send 
by the mail; but I wrote you a day or two before, by a private 
opportunity. 

The volunteers have been creating disturbances, which have at 
last aroused the old General so much that he has ordered one regi- 
ment, the First Kentucky foot, to march to the rear, as they have 
disgraced themselves and their State. 

The amount of the story is this: Some few days ago, a party of 
volunteers, to what regiment attached unknown, went into a house 
in the suburbs of the town, and after forcibly driving out the hus- 
band, committed outrages on the wife. A day or two afterwards, a 
Kentucky volunteer was found in the morning with his throat cut, 
supposed to have been done by the outraged husband as an act of 
retaliation. The same day two Mexicans were shot while working 
in a corn-field, said to have been done by Kentucky volunteers, in 
revenge. The next day another Kentuckian was brought into camp 
with his throat cut, and several more Mexicans were shot. The 
General in the meantime had brought the thing to the notice of all 
the volunteer regiments, giving strict orders that no man should be 
allowed to go out with arms, and impressed upon the officers the 
necessity of controlling the men and putting a stop to these out- 
rages, which would inevitably end in the massacre of many inno- 
cent persons. 

It came to his notice, however, that the Kentucky regiment, not- 
withstanding his orders, had left its camp, in squads of twenty and 
thirty, all armed, and avowing their intention of killing Mexicans, 
to revenge their murdered comrades, and the same day one man, a 
Mexican, was shot within a hundred yards of the camp, and a little 
boy of twelve years of age, who was cutting cornstalks to bring to 
the camp for sale, was shot in the field and his leg broken. This poor 
little fellow, all bleeding and crying, was brought by his relatives and 
laid down in front of the General's tent, and he called out to look at 
him. Of course, the General was much excited, and as he could only 
ascertain that armed parties of Kentuckians had gone out, he told 
the colonel of the regiment that he held him and his officers respon- 
sible, and ordered them to the rear in disgrace. Afterwards, however, 
intercession was made, and on their making promises to endeavor 
to find out the guilty individuals, and promising to prevent such things 



162 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

in future, the old man countermanded the order. The giving of it, 
however, had the effect of completely stopping the outrages for the 
present; but the well-wishers of our cause would have been glad to 
see him disband the whole regiment and send them home as a dis- 
grace to the army and their State. It would have had a most bene- 
ficial effect upon the volunteers. 

You know I am not one of those regular soldiers who have all 
their lives gotten up and gone to bed at the sound of the drum, and 
who are filled with all the prejudices of an exclusive class, and look 
upon all but regular troops with contempt, and never see any good 
in volunteers. I am more of a juste milieu man; being a regular, 
but having at the same time mixed much with civilians, and know- 
ing the impracticability of ever having regulars only, I am desirous 
of seeing all the good I can in volunteers, and, if possible, so modi- 
fying the system as to make what we must have useful. 

The volunteers have in this war, on the whole, behaved better 
than I had believed they would, and infinitely better than they did 
in the Florida war, under my own eye. Still, without a modifica- 
tion of the manner in which they are officered, they are almost use- 
less in an offensive war. They are sufficiently well-drilled for prac- 
tical purposes, and are, I believe, brave, and will fight as gallantly 
as any men, but they are a set of Goths and Vandals, without dis- 
cipline, laying waste the country wherever we go, making us a terror 
to innocent people, and if there is any spirit or energy in the Mexi- 
cans, will finally rouse the people against us, who now are perfectly 
neutral. In addition to which, they add immensely to the expenses 
of the war. They cannot take any care of themselves; the hospitals 
are crowded with them, they die like sheep; they waste their provi- 
sions, requiring twice as much to supply them as regulars do. They 
plunder the poor inhabitants of everything they can lay their hands 
on, and shoot them when they remonstrate, and if one of their num- 
ber happens to get into a drunken brawl and is killed, they run over 
the country, killing all the poor innocent people they find in their 
way, to avenge, as they say, the murder of their brother. 

This is a true picture, and the cause is the utter incapacity of 
their officers to control them or command respect. The officers 
(many of whom are gentlemen and clever fellows) have no command 
over their men. They know they are in service for only twelve 
months; at the end of that time they will return to their homes, 
when these men will be their equals and their companions, as they 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 163 

had been before, and in consequence they dare not attempt to exer- 
cise any control over them. Then, for the most part, they are as 
ignorant of their duties as the men, and conscious of their ignorance, 
they feel they cannot have the command over their people that the 
regular officers do over their soldiers. 

Now, the remedy I would propose would be to attach to every 
regiment of volunteers a colonel, lieutenant colonel, ten captains and 
twenty sergeants, with two hundred men, from the regular army. 
Let these officers have the brevet rank of their respective grades, so 
as to keep them in the army. Let the colonel be taken from the 
lieutenant colonels, and the captains from the lieutenants. The army 
can well spare these officers, for it is organized for such a purpose. 
Then in each regiment you would have enough practical knowledge 
to give a tone to it, and the volunteer regiments would soon be as 
efficient as regular troops. But, as it is, the generals know no more 
than the privates, and it is only by attaching regular officers, as staff 
officers, that they get along at all. 

But I am afraid you will be tired of this digression about volun- 
teers, a subject that must be uninteresting to you, but not so to us, 
whose lives and reputations are dependent upon their actions. I 
have been led to make it from my seeing by the papers that a war is 
about being waged between the volunteers and regulars as to their 
respective efficiency, and that the volunteers have begun by accusing 
the regulars of showing the white feather on the 21st at the north- 
east end of the town. 

The truth is, that the regulars, by their attack, caused the enemy 
to evacuate the battery taken on that day by the Mississippians and 
Tennesseeans, though, no doubt, their movements were accelerated 
by seeing the column of volunteers advancing from the front. An 
unfortunate error, as afterwards was ascertained, occurred in the 
regulars going to the right, instead of to the left, and after entering the 
town, owing to an ignorance of the locality, and finding the enemy 
strong in their front and right, they attempted, as it is called, to out- 
flank them, or turn their right, but soon found they had an insur- 
mountable obstacle in their front, in a stream that could only be 
crossed by two bridges that were strongly fortified, and after sus- 
taining a terrible fire, they retired. A portion, however, under 
Captain Backus, First Infantry, went to the left, and in so doing got 
on top of a house, from whence they could fire into the rear of the 
battery, and did fire into the rear, killing a great many Mexicans, 



164 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

and annoying them so that they evacuated the work as soon as they 
saw the volunteers in front, and long before they (the volunteers) 
reached the work. Now, had the whole attacking force (regular) 
turned to the left, they would have taken the work before the volun- 
teers had reached the scene of action. As it is, the fall of the battery 
is due to the action of both, but chiefly to the regulars; for had no 
attack been made by them, the volunteers could never have taken 
the battery from the front, for they would have been cut to pieces 
in attempting it. But had the volunteers not attacked it in front, 
the regulars, who had ascertained their error, would soon have taken 
it in reverse, or from the rear. Do you understand me? If so, I 
should like you to show this part of my letter to Major Bache, who 
will doubtless see the contest going on in the papers among the 
letter-writers. 

Already has the colonel of the Tennessee regiment (Colonel 
Campbell), in whose favor, by-the-by, I was very much prepossessed 
from his appearance, written a letter, in which he says he "was 
ordered to sustain the regulars, but on reaching the ground saw no 
regulars, and could not ascertain where they were, but understood 
they were behind stone walls and houses, protecting themselves; 
and he, being subjected to a heavy cross-fire from batteries (which 
he understood the regulars were to take and he sustain them in it), 
he, without waiting for the regulars, dashed ahead, and took the 
battery himself." Now this seems very plausible, but when he does 
not know where the regulars were, I can tell him they were in the 
town, subjected to the fire of two additional batteries and many 
thousand muskets, which they were returning with good effect, and 
that a portion of them were killing the men in the battery which he 
took, as fast as they could load their muskets; and had they not 
been there, he would never have taken the work, for the enemy 
would have stood to their guns till he reached them, and in the two 
hundred yards he ivent over without being fired at would have been a 
terrible fire of grape and cannister, besides musketry, that would, or 
at least might have annihilated his force or made it turn back. 

The credit is due to both. The regulars had driven the enemy's 
infantry from a large space on the left of the battery, which would 
have been otherwise occupied, to the annoyance of the volunteers 
coming from the front, and before the volunteers reached within 
charging distance, the regulars had commenced killing the men in 
the work, and would eventually have caused them to evacuate it, 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 165 

but they, seeing the volunteers forming in front, took a few shots 
at them and then ran. This is the true secret of the taking of that 
battery. 

The volunteers behaved most gallantly, but it is folly for them 
to take the whole credit to themselves, and still greater folly to at- 
tempt to insinuate that the regulars did not do their duty. The list 
of killed and wounded conclusively demonstrates who were in the 
hottest fire, and the poor regulars did but little in their efforts to 
protect themselves, when we see that at that attack some fifteen officers 
were killed and wounded, and some two hundred and fifty men, out 
of a force of not much over six hundred. Colonel Campbell's letter 
had induced me to say this much about the affair, that you may fully 
understand it. 

I regret to say the letter-writers have created a great ferment in 
the camp. The fact is that there never were such ridiculous and 
absurd letters written as have emanated from this great army since 
the battles. All that I have read have been a tissue of nonsense and 
falsehoods, so palpably absurd as to make me laugh, though others 

are greatly annoyed. For instance, I see one Captain and 

Lieutenant did wonders in the way of killing Mexicans, 

whereas it is well known that Captain behaved in a most 

equivocal manner, having been found in a quarry-hole, with his whole 
company, fifty men, guarding one poor Mexican prisoner, and harsh 
words had to be used to him before he could be gotten out of the hole, 
which was way in the rear of the fighting, but where he was pro- 
tected from the artillery sweeping the plain. 

As to Lieutenant , he was not in the fight at all, having 

been left at camp to guard the baggage. This is a fair specimen of 
the accuracy of most of the letter-writers. 

All you see about Generals Taylor and Butler is humbug; no 
difficulty ever occurred between them, and General Butler behaved 
most handsomely. After he was wounded and brought back to 
camp, he became a little nervous at reports of the approach of the 
enemy's cavalry, and in consequence made some barricades out of the 
wagons, tents and baggage. They were considered a little absurd 
and unnecessary, and particularly annoying to those who, after hav- 
ing gone through the day's hard work, found, on getting to camp, 
their tents all taken up and piled up with their baggage to make a 
defense against cavalry, and this, too, in a thick wood, on a dark 
night, when it would be hard for cavalry to get through quietly. 



166 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Still, this was a precautionary measure he deemed proper to take, 
and though we may criticise his judgment, his courage is beyond 
dispute. Besides, General Taylor never censured anything he did, 
nor did any act of his require it. 

So also it is altogether wrong, that General Quitman brought 
on the attack on the morning of the twenty-third, to the disgust of 
General Taylor. On the contrary, General Taylor gave him full 
power to do whatever he thought proper, and after he had commenced 
the attack, immediately sustained him with his whole force. 

I regret also to state that Lieutenant Pope, of my corps, did not 
discover a battery one day, and lead the column of attack the next, and 
"that, if his gallantry was the theme of admiration to the whole 
army," the army never knew it till after the letter so stating the fact 
came back in the papers. Lieutenant Pope behaved very well, and 
did his duty, but nothing more than all the rest of the army did. 
All this, however, is strictly entre nous. I thank heaven you never 
published any of my letters, and I trust your discretion will ever 
continue, for there are so many cliques, factions, and parties, among 
regulars and volunteers, that it is almost impossible to write without 
giving offence to some. And as my letters are simply intended for 
your information, I wish to be perfectly free to say just what I think, 
without reference to others. 

I was exceedingly unfortunate in never paying any attention to 
the well-known correspondents of different newspapers, many of 
whom accompanied General Worths column. For this reason my 
extraordinary performances have not reached your ear through the 
public prints. I think, however, the Dear Public will be sadly puz- 
zled to reconcile the thousand conflicting statements, and will finally 
have to throw themselves on the official reports, where alone is 
accuracy, divested of bombast and falsehood, to be found. They are 
doubtless before you by this time, and I trust you will be satisfied 
with the mention that is made of me in them. I assure you I am. 
To have it said that I have done my duty is all I ask, and I have no 
hesitation in saying, without mock modesty, that General Worth 
has been pleased to say of me more than I really deserved. 

December 5. 
Our affairs remain pretty much in statu quo. An express was 
to-day received from General Worth at Saltillo, forwarding a letter 
from Santa Anna. This was a reply to General Taylor's communica- 



, ■ 4o 

/J-V 







SKETCH OF THE SEAT OF THE WAR IN MEXICO SHOWING THE LINE PROPOSED TO BE OCCUPIED BY THE AMERICAN FORCES UNDER GENERAL TAYLOR 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 167 

tion from Saltillo. "He agrees with General Taylor on our construc- 
tion of the terms of the armistice, repeats his opinion that there can 
be no peace as long as our army occupies the territory of Mexico, 
but again says that the Congress will meet on the first of this month, 
and will act as best suits the high interests of the country." General 
Worth writes that he had sent a confidential agent to San Luis, a 
Mexican, who had returned, having had a private interview with 
Santa Anna, in which Santa Anna told him he would do all in his 
power to bring about a peace. This may or may not be his inten- 
tion. Many think it is, and that the Congress will make peace, if 
it can do so with anything like honor, but I regret to say I am skep- 
tical. The Mexicans are so little guided by their true interests, are 
so vain and arrogant, learn so little from the past, and are so sanguine 
of the future, that I fear such happy times as peace would bring are 
yet far off. Still, there is a hope, and so anxious am I for the result, 
that as long as there is a hope, I will indulge in the delusion that a 
few weeks may prove vain. 

I fear that before we have peace, we must be a little more courteous 
and civil to Great Britain, through whose mediation I look for it; 
and we must be less exacting in our demands upon Mexico, which 
will hardly be brought, by anything we have yet done, to despoil 
herself of nearly one-third of her vast domain. 

Monterey, December 8, 1846. 

Since writing my last letter I have been made happy by the 
receipt of your letters from the 1st to the 7th of November, by 
which time my long letter giving an account of the battle had reached 
you. I feel very much complimented by your kind notice of my nar- 
rative; you would make some allowances, if you only knew how I 
was situated when I wrote it. It was at General Worth's table, 
where there must have been some eight or ten officers talking, and 
others constantly coming in and going out, and I was so often inter- 
rupted, I had to sit up till two o'clock to finish it. The sketch was 
most miserable, but I knew it was better than nothing, to illustrate 
the various positions; and without something, you could hardly get 
a clear idea of the affair. At the time, too, I had not had an oppor- 
tunity of conversing fully with officers engaged on General Taylor's 
side of the town, and I may have been led into errors, which the offi- 
cial reports will correct. 

The correspondent of the "Spirit of the Times," G. de L., is Cap- 



168 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

tain Henry, of the Third Infantry, a classmate of mine at West Point, 
a very good fellow, and I notice his recent productions since our march 
from Camargo have been quite spirited. His account of the battle 
has not yet reached here, and I cannot therefore vouch for its accu- 
racy. He was one of the individuals who wagered with me on a fight, 
and I had the good fortune to win a forage-cup from him, as I did a 
box of cigars from another, and one of wine from a third. This, I 
suppose, you will say was very bad in me, but in war times soldiers 
will be bad fellows, and you must pardon me on the score of my 
confession. 

I enclose you a rough sketch which will give you some idea of 
the relative positions of various places about to be occupied and gar- 
risoned by our forces, and will enable you better, and particularly 
your dear father, to understand what is going on. I have only put 
down the principal towns and roads; there are an immense number 
of ranchos, as they are called, and numerous trails and mule-paths 
joining them, but the only good wagon roads, or the lines on which 
it is practicable to move with wagons and artillery, I have put down. 

The troops as now stationed are as follows: General Wool, with 
two thousand five hundred men (one thousand five hundred foot 
and one thousand horse) and eight pieces of artillery, is now at 
Parras, having been ordered there from Monclova, at which place 
he was stopped by General Taylor, on account of the armistice. 
General Worth is at Saltillo, where he will soon have a force of about 
two thousand five hundred men and eight pieces of artillery. Major 
General Butler will remain here, with about one thousand five hun- 
dred men and a large quantity of artillery. This will make about 
six thousand men and over sixteen pieces of artillery that could be 
united at Saltillo, under General Butler, in the event of Santa Anna's 
advancing in this direction. This force is ample to hold him in check. 
The only danger to be apprehended is his not giving them time to 
concentrate. 

One thousand men have been sent and are by this time at Tam- 
pico, with twenty pieces of artillery of various calibre. Among these 
one thousand are five hundred regulars, of the artillery, under the 
command of Colonel Belton. 

General Taylor will move from here in a few days, with about 
two thousand five hundred men and eight pieces of artillery, to go 
by Morelos and Linares to Victoria. He will pick up on the route 
the Second Infantry, now at Morelos, numbering five hundred men, 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 169 

and at Victoria he will be joined by General Patterson, from Mata- 
moras, with over two thousand men. General Taylor's object is to 
examine the various mountain passes between this and Victoria, to 
garrison the principal points, leaving a large garrison at Victoria, 
which, with the one at Tampico, will make a force to meet Santa 
Anna, should he advance from San Luis in that direction. But he 
can only carry infantry and cavalry by that route, as there is no 
practicable road for artillery through the mountains from San Luis 
but the one to Saltillo. 

I have above disposed of twelve thousand men; there remain 
some two thousand besides, who garrison the depots in the rear, 
namely, Seralvo, Camargo and Matamoras, and after the occupation 
of Victoria, Soto Marina will also be made a depot, as there is a 
pretty good harbor, where small vessels can enter. 

I see the "Union" states that General Taylor has twenty thou- 
sand men. We here cannot make out over fourteen thousand, a small 
number to hold a line of over five hundred miles against an enemy 
with thirty thousand men. 

You will observe that San Luis is a central point, from whence, 
had Santa Anna only roads over which he could carry artillery, he 
might annoy us very much, but I doubt his advancing beyond San 
Luis, unless he thinks he can get a chance to catch one of our de- 
tachments by itself, when the hope of success may lead him on. All 
his forces are at present at San Luis said to amount to thirty thousand. 
He has an advance of two thousand at Matejuala, on the lookout for 
our approach. I only wish there was water on the road sufficient 
for the army, and that we could march with fifteen thousand men. 
I would then be satisfied of our perfect success at San Luis, and on 
its falling, the road to the City of Mexico would be open to us, and 
we should march to that place without opposition. As it is, we have 
not ten thousand men to march with, and there is no water on the 
road. Under these circumstances this line from Parras to Tampico 
will be occupied, and if the Mexican Congress refuse peace, it will be 
permanently annexed to the United States, and Mexico told to come 
and take it. Then, if further offensive operations are deemed neces- 
sary, Vera Cruz will have to be attacked and taken. 

What is thought of the naval attack on Tobasco? I have not 
seen the official account, but it appears to be the impression that 
they did not do as much as they might have done. If they cannot 
take a town with only three hundred soldiers in it, and no artillery, 
what are they going to do against San Juan de Ulloa? 



170 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

General Taylor will leave in a few days for Victoria, and I shall 
go with him. I will write you again before I leave. 

Montemorelos, December 18, 1846. 

We left Monterey on the 15th instant, and after a pleasant march 
of three days reached this place yesterday afternoon. The command 
consisted of about one thousand two hundred regulars, under General 
Twiggs, and two thousand volunteer infantry, under General Quit- 
man, of Mississippi. General Taylor and all his staff accompanied 
the command, and it was General Taylor's plan to go down to Vic- 
toria, examine all the mountain passes and the communications to 
the sea; then, after leaving the volunteers at Victoria, he was to 
return to Saltillo. We all were anticipating a pleasant excursion of 
six weeks, and looking forward with some interest to the Mexican 
Congress, hoping for peace, but last night an express reached here, 
informing us that Santa Anna was advancing on Saltillo, understand- 
ing that General Taylor was going to Victoria, and hoping by rapid 
marches to surprise Worth, and then attack Wool, and after using 
both up in detail, to advance on Monterey. 

General Taylor, though loth to believe the intelligence, still 
deemed it his duty to act as if it were true, and in consequence left 
this morning with all the regulars, except one battery of artillery, 
which goes to Victoria with General Quitman. At Victoria, General 
Quitman will be joined by General Patterson, with one thousand 
five hundred men, who will take command of the line from Victoria 
to Tampico. General Taylor will push on to Saltillo, where he ex- 
pects to find Worth and Wool united, which, with his force, will 
make over five thousand men, with twenty pieces of artillery; and 
if Santa Anna is so bold as to make the attempt, he will most assur- 
edly meet with a signal defeat, I do not care what force he brings. 

General Taylor, being very anxious to know the nature of the 
mountain passes, has detached me to go with General Quitman to 
Victoria, where, upon meeting General Patterson, I shall be furnished 
with an escort of cavalry, and will then reconnoitre the whole country 
in front of the line of Tampico and this place. 

I cannot tell you with how sad a heart I saw all my old associates 
and companions march away this morning, for I am left here with 
only five regular officers, and of the two thousand volunteers, I do 
not know a dozen. Then, to think that they are hurrying on with 
the expectation of having another battle, at which I shall not be 
present! Little as I like fighting, it is still a great disappointment. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 171 

But there are great advantages in my position. I shall be the 
senior and only officer of my corps with General Patterson; the duty 
I am charged with is most important and honorable, and had I re- 
turned with General Taylor, when we united with the troops at Sal- 
tillo, there would be seven Topographical Engineers, among whom I 
would have ranked fourth, making a great difference in my position. 
Then, again, we are not without hopes of active service here, for it is 
said there are five thousand Mexicans at Tula, under General Urrea, 
he having concentrated his army of observation there; and when he 
finds there are only three thousand volunteers at Victoria, he may 
try his luck with us, which I sincerely trust he will, for we shall give 
him a sound thrashing if he makes the attempt. 

I must confess the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. 
Still I feel very much the separation from General Taylor and all 
the regulars. The old man was very kind to me on parting, and said 
he would recollect, if anything turned up in the way of peace, that 
I was the first to join him, and had been with him ever since. 

If Santa Anna's advance be true, it must be based on the refusal 
of the Mexican Congress to negotiate, and we may therefore look for 
a long war; but I still hope it is a mere feint to occupy the attention 
of his own people, who are loudly complaining of his having aban- 
doned Tampico, and of his want of energy in not advancing on us. 
Indeed, his position is very critical, and almost desperate. If he 
advance, he is sure to be defeated, when he will be ruined forever; 
and if he delay, he will be overthrown by his enemies, who are only 
awaiting a plausible pretext to declare against him; a few weeks will 
show. 

The country we have passed over has been quite beautiful. We 
pass along the foot of the high mountains (as the sketch in my last 
letter indicated to you), over a rich plain, well cultivated and thickly 
settled. We expect to reach Linares, in two days' marching, to- 
morrow, and it will then take us some eight days to go to Victoria. 
From Victoria I may go down to Soto la Marina and to Tampico. 
There is one bad thing about it; Heaven only knows when I shall 
get your letters. But I will write to you by every chance. 

Victoria, Mexico, December 30, 1846. 
We reached this place yesterday, after a pleasant and agreeable 
march of some seventeen days. I wrote to you on the 18th instant 
from Montemorelos, advising you of my having been detached with 



172 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

General Quitman, to come and examine the mountain passes, and 
that General Taylor, with the main body, had gone to Saltillo to 
meet Santa Anna, who was said to be advancing. 

We had quite a peaceable march, till within three days of this 
place, when we heard that troops had reached Victoria from Tula, 
in advance of us, and we should meet with resistance. As usual, in 
similar cases, their numbers were greatly exaggerated. The enemy 
were reported to be some seven thousand strong, with six pieces of 
artillery. We had but two thousand, with four pieces, and they 
all volunteers. 

Of General Patterson, whom we expected to meet with fifteen 
hundred men, nothing could be heard, and for a while things looked 
blue; but, much to our gratification, the advance guard of the enemy 
retired before us, and when within a few miles of Victoria, intelli- 
gence reached us that they had all retired to the mountains. It 
turned out that they only had fifteen hundred cavalry in the place, 
which were the advance of the army they intended to bring against 
us; but finding it impracticable to get their artillery over the moun- 
tains, they withdrew their advance, and now they say they will not 
fight this side of the mountains. 

We have no intelligence from Saltillo. It is generally under- 
stood that Santa Anna sent his army forward upon Saltillo, but 
nothing further is known, and we are looking with interest for the 
result. 

I do not think there will be any fighting here, unless we advance 
on Tula, when we will meet with resistance; but I will explain this 
more fully hereafter. 

General Patterson is said to be within fifty miles of this place; 
he has lost all the honor of the taking of Victoria by being behind. 

I am in perfect health, and thought much of you and our dear 
children on Christmas Day; nor have I forgotten that to-morrow is 
our wedding day, and that I have been happy for six years. 

Victoria, Mexico, January 7, 1847. 
A few days after our arrival, General Quitman sent me to recon- 
noitre the road to Tula, as far as a little place called Las Minas, 
and where the enemy were said to have their advance. I went with 
only twenty men, mounted on sorry ponies, as we had no cavalry 
of any kind; but, meeting a Mexican on the way, who told us the 
enemy had retired beyond the mountains, I advanced in perfect 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 173 

security as far as Las Minas, and had the men been provided with 
rations, would have gone beyond. It was well I did not, for on my 
return I found the rascally Mexican had deceived me, and that I 
was within six miles of one hundred and fifty Mexicans. The object 
of my expedition was, however, fully accomplished — the examina- 
tion of the road — and I satisfied myself that the road was imprac- 
ticable for wagons or artillery. The next day, the enemy being re- 
ported in our vicinity in another direction, I went out with my small 
party to examine, and ascertained it was a false report. 

Three days ago, much to our astonishment, General Taylor made 
his appearance with Twiggs's division of two thousand regulars, and 
at the same time General Patterson reached here with sixteen hundred 
men from Matamoras, making our force here nearly six thousand men. 

General Taylor, on reaching Monterey, found the report of Santa 
Anna's advance was false, and he turned right around with his whole 
force and came here. For what object, no one knows, is so large a 
force assembled at this point. To be sure, the enemy occupy Tula 
in strong force, but there is no practicable road for our artillery and 
wagons to Tula, and if we do take Tula, we still have to take San 
Luis, some eighty miles distant from Tula, before we can penetrate 
into the interior; whereas from Saltillo we have a good road for heavy 
artillery to San Luis, and when we take that, Tula will fall without 
a blow. 

It is reported that General Scott is in the country, and is to or- 
ganize an expedition against Vera Cruz, and it may be that the force 
here, or a part of it, is destined for that place. A few days will show. 

Generals Worth and Wool have concentrated at Saltillo, and all 
the volunteers from the Rio Grande have been brought up, so that 
there is at present under General Butler's command at that place 
some six thousand men and eighteen pieces of artillery, ready to 
receive Santa Anna, should he advance, which I hardly think he will. 

From Mexico we have but little news. The Congress is occupied 
in the election of a President, and has not yet acted on the proposi- 
tion of peace. I have seen papers to the 19th of December from the 
City of Mexico. Their tone is war to the last, but at the same time 
despondent; and instead of driving us across the Sabine, 1 they talk 
of their capacity to defend themselves at San Luis and Tula. I 
understand that the provisional President, Salus, in his message to 

1 The Sabine River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, sixty miles above Gal- 
veston, and is the eastern boundary line of Texas. 



174 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

the Congress, says that the Government is for prosecuting the war 
vigorously, but it is for Congress to say whether or not they shall 
treat for peace; that if the war is continued, extraordinary means 
must be resorted to, to raise the necessary funds, for that now the 
Treasury is bankrupt, and the troops without pay, clothing, or sub- 
sistence. Under these circumstances, I do not see how they can long 
continue the war, and one or two efficient blows on our part may 
bring them to their senses. Their blindness is incomprehensible, and 
what they expect by continuing the war is more than I can imagine. 

General Patterson brought with him the President's (ours) mes- 
sage, by which I see he proposes to keep the country we have con- 
quered, as a remuneration for the expenses of the war. This will do 
more to bring about a peace than many battles. 

General Taylor's column brought a mail with it, in which came 
your letter of the 14th of November, at which time you had received 
mine on the subject of my promotion. General Worth has recom- 
mended me for a brevet, but it was in a letter to General Scott, 
written in the early part of December, and I fear did not reach 
Washington till after General Scott's departure. As soon as he is 
called on, however, to do so officially, he will do it again, for, unre- 
quested on my part, he told me he should use all possible exertion to 
secure my promotion. 

I also received the notice of the meeting of the good citizens of 
Philadelphia, proposing to present swords to those officers from Phila- 
delphia who had distinguished themselves on the 8th and 9th of 
May. If I should be included in this category, I should deem it a 
high honor. 

Tampico, January 24, 1847. 

You will be somewhat surprised, probably, to hear of my being 
in this place, as doubtless the newspapers will give you the informa- 
tion of the return of General Taylor to Monterey, and you will expect 
me to have gone with him. I last wrote you from Victoria, where 
I had gone with General Quitman's command, and where we were 
joined by General Taylor, with Twiggs's division of regulars. 

General Taylor, after waiting for some days for communications 
from General Scott, who, he was informed, was in the country some- 
where, determined to take his force down to Tampico for supplies, 
and await General Scott's orders at that point. Accordingly, on the 
15th instant, General Twiggs's command left Victoria, and I was as- 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 175 

signed to it, as it was in the advance. The second day's march we 
were overtaken by an express from General Taylor, informing us 
that communications had been received after our departure from 
General Scott, that he called for all the regular troops and one-half 
the volunteers of General Taylor's command; that General Taylor, 
thus stripped, was to return to Monterey and Saltillo, to defend that 
line, and General Scott was to operate on the Mexican coast, or, in 
other words, attack Vera Cruz. In the orders communicating this 
intelligence I was ordered to report to Major General Patterson, on 
reaching Tampico, who was to be in command till General Scott's 
arrival. 

At first I deemed, as I suppose you will, this a piece of ill-luck; 
but when I ascertained that the whole regular army was coming here, 
that the affair against Vera Cruz was to be the great effort of the 
whole war, and that General Taylor was merely to remain quiet and 
on the defensive — that I was the only officer of his staff detached, 
though all applied to come here — I felt reconciled, though I must 
confess I regretted exceedingly parting with the old man. 

He has been most outrageously treated by the Administration, 
which hopes to play off General Scott against him, and by depriving 
him of all his command, and leaving him in an exposed position, 
with one-third of the force which he had before, and which he deemed 
necessary, to break him down and destroy his popularity. I trust 
that it will signally fail, and from having the plaudits of the peo- 
ple for bravery and skill, he will now have their sympathy for the 
injustice of the course pursued towards him. 

We arrived here last night. I find the place much larger than I 
expected, and really quite delightful. There is a large foreign popu- 
lation of merchants, and in consequence the town has all such com- 
forts as good restaurants, excellent shops, where everything can be 
purchased, and is in fact quite as much of a place as New Orleans. It 
is inaccessible, owing to a bar, having only eight feet of water, and 
as this is the season of "Northers," already many wrecks have taken 
place. 

General Scott is still at the Brazos de Santiago, having with him, 
I hear, six officers of my corps, four of whom rank me; so that I 
shall have to play fifth-fiddle, unless I can manage to keep with 
General Patterson, which I shall try to do. 

I can give you but little Mexican news. There is a report that 
the Mexican Congress has decided by a vote of three hundred to two 



176 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

hundred and fifty against the overtures of the United States: but 
this is a mere report. Santa Anna is elected President; one step 
towards his doing as he pleases; and sensible people among the Mex- 
icans believe he is desirous of making terms and will bring about a 
compromise as soon as he can. My opinion is that the war will not 
last very much longer, for both parties are heartily tired of it, and 
Mexico is without resources of any kind to carry it on. 

Excuse the brevity of my letter, but I am much occupied to-day, 
as to-morrow I go upon a reconnoissance to select a healthy position 
for a camp in the neighborhood of this place. I am quite well and 
strong. The place is perfectly healthy, and I anticipate no serious 
disease among the troops, here or at Vera Cruz, before June, and 
long before that time there will either be peace or we shall have 
Jalapa. 

Tampico, February 3, 1847. 

I have been so much occupied in making reconnoissances since 
I last wrote you, that I have allowed a mail to go off without a letter 
from me. General Patterson has kept me running around the coun- 
try, hunting a position to encamp the troops. I have, however, now 
been in every direction, and presume I shall have a little quiet to 
myself. 

I suppose, of course, that when you heard of my arrival at this 
place you made up your mind to my being present at the attack on 
Vera Cruz, but from reports to-day I think it quite problematical. 

It appears that General Worth has reached the Brazos, with a 
force of some three thousand regular troops, and already several of 
the newly raised volunteer regiments have arrived there. Informa- 
tion, it is said, has been taken to General Scott (also at the Brazos) 
of the defenseless state of the town, and the small garrison, not over 
two thousand five hundred, that it and the castle have. Now, it is 
said, if you strike immediately, the place is yours, and in pursuance 
of this view, as he at present only has transportation for a limited 
number of troops, he has sent those from the Brazos, which troops, 
with the navy, will take the place at once. If he waits to concen- 
trate all his forces, he will give them time to send reinforcements, as 
it is said ten thousand men will be there in two weeks. So much for 
the report of the day. For my part I do not believe it; I believe 
General Scott will wait till he can get his whole force together, and 
that his best policy is to whip a large force there, in preference to an 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 177 

easy success; that is, as far as peace is concerned. If we defeat 
fifteen thousand men in the town and castle, break them up, or make 
them prisoners, we shall be much nearer a peace than if they gave 
it up to us without a fight. 

My only fear is that we shall leave it so late that the scourge of 
the country, vomito, will make its appearance, in which case we 
shall have to evacuate the place at once; but if we are quick about 
the matter, we can take the town and march to Jalapa before the end 
of April, and I have no fears before the month of May. Indeed, the 
disease does not take the form of an epidemic before July and August; 
but considering the exposures of a camp and our northern constitu- 
tions, I shall look for it in May, if we are not off the seacoast. I 
cannot conceive anything to prevent our being out of danger by 
that time, and I therefore give myself no uneasiness upon this sub- 
ject, and trust you will follow my example. 

General Scott is at the Brazos, and has with him Major Turnbull 
and four other Topographical Engineers. Captain McClelland ar- 
rived here yesterday, and reported to General Patterson, thus put- 
ting my nose out of joint. He brought me three pairs of spectacles, 
sent by you, for which I thank you very much, for I was on my last 
pair, and have had some terrible frights lately when I thought I had 
lost them. 

We are in a complete state of ignorance here as to what is to be 
done. Some say that we are going by land, some by water, others 
that we are to wait here till Worth and Scott take Vera Cruz, and then 
go there. All are surmises, nothing is known. My own impression 
is that General Scott is waiting for his transports; that as soon as they 
arrive we shall all be shipped to some place of rendezvous, such as 
Anton Lizardo or Sacrificios, and then landed to operate against 
Vera Cruz; that the whole force will go there, and go by water. A 
few days will give us more information, as General Scott is expected 
here daily. 

Tampico is a delightful place, having fine cafes, and all the lux- 
uries of a somewhat civilized town. A few evenings since a party 
was given by the lady of one of the foreign consuls. Only about 
fifteen officers attended. I was not among the number, being an 
entire stranger to all concerned, but I understand it was quite an 
elegant affair, and that there were many beautiful Mexican girls 
among the guests. 

I trust that when we take Vera Cruz the foolish Mexicans will 



178 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

come to terms. Some say negotiations are pending now, and we 
had a report yesterday that commissioners had gone to Washington; 
but all these are humbugs, I know. I do not believe they will make 
peace till we have given them one or two terrible thrashings, and 
follow up our success by marching directly on their capital. When 
they see us advancing and breaking down all opposition, they may 
be induced to come to terms. 

Tampico, February 8, 1847. 

I have not much news to give you, though there are many rumors 
afloat. General Scott is still at the Brazos, with some four thousand 
men. We have here, under Generals Patterson and Twiggs, some 
five thousand, and there are several vessels which have passed here, 
destined for the Island of Lobos (a point on the coast about forty 
miles south), where the new levies from the States are to rendezvous. 

The prevailing impression is that General Scott is only waiting 
for the ships and steamers from the United States, to transport the 
whole force by water to Vera Cruz, where a landing will be made, 
and the town and castle taken. 

It is estimated that he will have an efficient force of twelve thou- 
sand men (five thousand regulars), with a full supply of heavy artillery 
— in fact, a completely equipped expedition — and that it will not take 
us many days to reduce both castle and town. If we are only lucky 
in securing a good landing for our troops and supplies, I have no fear 
of the result. Once on terra firma, with plenty of ammunition and 
provisions, I am confident we can overcome any resistance the Mexi- 
cans can make, but every day's delay now is most fatal to us, for the 
healthiness of the place cannot be depended on after March, and 
should the fever break out before we succeed in taking the place, 
the expedition will be a complete and utter failure. Then, again, in 
transporting so many troops upon this dangerous and stormy coast, we 
must expect embarrassments from the elements, for one "Norther'' 
will scatter the fleet of transports to all parts of the Gulf, and it may 
take weeks to reassemble. Why did not the Government, on the 
13th of October, when it determined to annul General Taylor's armis- 
tice, at once decide on attacking Vera Cruz, and make its prepara- 
tions, call out troops, and have us before Vera Cruz in December, 
with the whole winter and spring before us, and not, as it has done, 
dilly-dally and waste precious time in inaction, till it has now made 
success exceedingly questionable, from the danger of the climate, 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 179 

more to be dreaded than the enemy? It has a heavy responsibility 
to answer for, but I trust in God we may have good fortune, which 
will put off the day of reckoning. 

We had yesterday an arrival from the Brazos; no transports yet 
arrived. In the meantime rumor says the Mexicans are reinforcing 
and strengthening Vera Cruz, and that we shall meet an army of 
some twenty thousand men there. The latter part of this I hope is 
true. As I told you before we went to Monterey, the more we meet 
the better; for if we succeed, not only do we acquire a greater glory, 
but the enemy are broken up and suffer in proportion. There will 
be no capitulation at Vera Cruz; a complete victory must be had on 
one side or the other, and if we gain the day, the Mexican army will 
be our prisoners, as there is no escape for them; and as I am sure we 
shall conquer, the more we overcome, the fewer will we have to meet 
at other points, and the greater the chance of peace. Rumor also 
says that Santa Anna is advancing on General Taylor at Monterey, 
in hopes of succeeding against his diminished force (he having only 
four thousand volunteers), but I believe, if he is making a move, it is 
in the hopes of drawing us back there, that the precious time between 
now and the vomito season may be wasted by us in useless march, 
and thus the expedition to Vera Cruz be put off till the fall. But in 
this he will be mistaken. General Taylor's force, though small, is 
large enough, with the natural advantages of Monterey, to keep off 
the whole army of Mexico, so long as he has supplies, and I trust he 
is well off in that particular; and we only wait for ships to carry us, 
when Vera Cruz will be attacked and taken. 

One of the ships, having on board two hundred Louisiana volun- 
teers, under Colonel DeRussy, was wrecked a few days ago on its 
way to Lobos Island, a point about forty miles below here, and the 
same distance from Tuspan, where there is a Mexican force stationed. 
General Cos, the officer in command at Tuspan, hearing of the wreck, 
started off with a thousand men and two pieces of artillery, to capt- 
ure two hundred poor wrecked fellows, one-half of whom had lost 
their arms. On approaching the spot, he sent a polite letter to 
Colonel DeRussy, asking him to surrender, and offering to send him 
to Vera Cruz or the United States, on his parole. The message was 
received a little before sunset, and the colonel asked till the next 
morning at nine to deliberate. As soon as night set in he commenced 
retreating up the beach, and soon met one hundred regulars, who 
had been sent to escort a train of mules, with provisions for him, we 



180 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

knowing here of his being wrecked, but not knowing of his being 
menaced by the enemy. With this reinforcement he made good his 
retreat, and at the last accounts had halted to give the Mexicans a 
fight, should they dare to advance on him. Many of us here think 
a respectable force should have been immediately sent to cut off 
Mr. Cos; but General Patterson doubtless thinks he is not author- 
ized to enter into any expedition that would be likely to have out of 
the way any portion of the command when the transports, hourly 
expected, should arrive. 

We also have information of the reoccupation of Victoria by a 
large Mexican force, which is employed in maltreating and robbing 
all those who were civil to us during our stay there. This I consider 
cruel treatment on the part of our Government, to send troops to 
occupy a place, hoist our flag, give appearances of protection to all, 
threatening those who are unwilling to serve you, thus making and 
forcing them to perform acts for which they are punished by their 
own armies, on our evacuating the place. Either let the people alone, 
or when you once have taken a place, hold it and protect those who 
compromise themselves by serving you. When is the Government 
of the United States going to awake from its lethargy and send into 
Mexico a force sufficient to prosecute the war vigorously f Does it ex- 
pect our good fortune, and want of energy on the part of our enemies, 
hitherto attending our operations, is to last forever? If so, it is wo- 
fully mistaken, and it will find it so before long, to its cost. The war 
will never be ended so long as it is carried on on the small scale we have 
hitherto done. We must threaten Mexico in such a manner, and with 
such a force, as will at once prove to her the inutility of resistance, 
and then we may begin to hope for peace; but as it is now she clings 
to the expectation, that by opposing to us treble our numbers with 
defensive works, she will be able to check us, and the first disaster 
attending us, she expects a pronunciamento on the part of the Whigs 
and Northern Democrats, forcing the Government to withdraw the 
troops and propose more lenient terms. In this idea she is supported 
by the fact of the mere handful of men we have in the field, to hold 
possession of a territory almost as large as our whole country, and at 
the same time invade the heart of a populous country, defended by 
the most formidable natural barriers, and with a people who, however 
low be their spirit, may at least be expected to defend their homes, 
their families and their religion. She is still more fortified in this 
idea by the speeches in Congress of some of the Whigs, and the tone 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 181 

of many newspapers of the Whig press. She believes the war un- 
popular, and she fancies that by holding on she will tire us out, and 
dollars and cents will conquer us, if not arms. 

Do not think this idea absurd; it is true. There have been re- 
ceived here Mexican journals, with large quotations from Mr. Web- 
ster's 1 speech at Philadelphia, and from the columns of the "National 
Intelligencer, " proving the unpopularity of the war. They cite the 
recent elections to prove that Mr. Polk is not sustained, and they say, 
"Let us hold on and suffer, and in a short time the Government of 
the United States will be forced to respect Mexico and to withdraw 
all its exorbitant demands. " 

Now, while I give you this as the tone of public feeling in Mexico, 
I neither endorse it nor consider it fair; but at the same time I con- 
sider the course of the " Intelligencer, " and of Mr. Webster and others, 
most injudicious and tending more to continue the war than any 
other cause. To force Mexico to terms is a most difficult affair, and 
never to be accomplished, unless we display to her and the world our 
determination to do it at every sacrifice, and that in this determina- 
tion we are united to a man. Let us show a bold and united front, 
forget party for an instant; now that we are in the war, prosecute it 
with all possible vigor, not in talk but in acts; treble our ships upon 
her coasts, and blockade them in reality, and not nominally, as is 
now done for want of vessels; threaten her from Saltillo and Vera 
Cruz with armies, each of twenty-five thousand men; let her see we 
are determined to carry everything before us; and you may rest 
assured that if she is ever going to make peace, she will do it then, 
and not till then. 

The sentiments of Mr. Crittenden 2 and those of Joseph R. Inger- 
soll 3 are those that we, the workers and sufferers, applaud. Finish 
the war, and then give it to the Administration; but do not protract 
the war by embarrassing it, and leading our enemies to suppose we 
are distracted in council, and by consequence weak in moral and 
physical force. 

Tampico, February 17, 1847. 
We have nothing particularly new. It is well ascertained that 
the troops at this place and the Brazos are destined to operate against 

1 Daniel Webster, U. S. senator. 

2 John J. Crittenden, U. S. senator. 

3 Joseph R. Ingersoll, U. S. representative in Congress. 



182 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Vera Cruz, and only await transportation to sail for that point. 
Ships were expected here by the 15th of last month. The delay in 
their appearance is unaccountable, and a heavy responsibility must 
rest on the shoulders of some individual or department. We have 
now been lying inactive at this place for twenty-six days, ample 
time to have proceeded to Vera Cruz and taken the place; for when 
we first arrived the garrison was small and ill-provided, and would 
have yielded with but little resistance. As it is now, no vessels are 
yet here, the enemy is daily increasing in strength and means of 
resistance, and the season of the vomito is rapidly approaching. We 
all trust to see transportation here in ten days, and are most anxious 
to get down and have the work, which must be done, over. 

The most important information we have is intelligence received 
from the interior, that Santa Anna, finding General Taylor left with 
so small a force at Saltillo and Monterey (only four thousand five 
hundred volunteers and five hundred regulars), has advanced on 
him with fifteen thousand men, from San Luis, and sent the force 
from Tula, six thousand men, to operate on his rear and cut off his 
communications with Camargo. This news is in Mexican journals 
of the 3d instant. They contain also Santa Anna's address to his 
troops, telling them the time for action has arrived, and they are to 
march, to drive us from the Rio Grande, or die. His advance of two 
thousand cavalry has captured a scouting party of General Taylor's, 
consisting of five officers and sixty-five men, Kentucky and Arkansas 
cavalry, at a place about forty miles from Saltillo. 

Great anxiety is felt for our old and much-loved commander, 
and a feeling of indignation against the Government for stripping 
him of all his force is prevalent throughout the army. Should any- 
thing happen to General Taylor, the country will demand the reason 
for his being left in the most exposed point, with so insufficient a 
force. 

This state of things I had anticipated as soon as I heard that so 
large a force was to be concentrated here and General Taylor left 
with so small a one. I foresaw that the Mexicans would exert all 
their energy to overwhelm him, as the weakest point; but it now 
appears that General Scott's despatches to him, containing a full 
development of all his plans and exact statement of forces, were 
captured on the person of Lieutenant Richey, of the Fifth Infantry, 
who was cruelly assassinated in Villa Grande, on his way to deliver 
them to General Taylor. He had an escort of ten dragoons, but un- 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 183 

wisely separating himself from them, after getting into the town, was 
waylaid and murdered. So that Santa Anna knew all of General 
Scott's intentions, almost as soon as General Taylor, and has made 
use of his information to endeavor to overcome him. 

If General Taylor has ample supply of provisions, he can fall 
back on Monterey and hold it against the whole of Mexico; but if 
he has not full supplies, his communications will, without doubt, be 
cut off, and he may be obliged to yield for want of provisions. But 
where is his assistance to come from? Is General Scott, upon rumor, 
going to break up his force, to send back to General Taylor troops 
just drawn from him? And here is probably the solution of Santa 
Anna's movements. Knowing the organization of an expedition for 
Vera Cruz, on the seaboard, he advances upon General Taylor. If 
General Taylor is reinforced, he hopes it will break up the expedition 
against Vera Cruz, or delay it till such time as the vomito will appear. 
If General Taylor is not reinforced, he will throw himself with his 
whole force on him, and endeavor to drive him back to the Rio Grande. 
This is masterly tactics, and our blundering has thrown the game into 
his own hands. All this arises from our not having one-half the num- 
ber of men in the country that we ought to have. When will the 
war be conducted on a proper scale? and when will the Government 
call out troops in time? Here, in two months, nine thousand vol- 
unteers will go out of service, and as yet not a step is taken to supply 
their places, and when we take Vera Cruz, we will have no force to 
follow up our success, and must wait some six months before another 
raw army is assembled. 

Tampico, February 19, 1847. 

I wrote to you, day before yesterday, a long letter, so that I have 
but little to tell you now. General Scott has not yet arrived, though 
he is hourly expected. He has sent orders to detain and charter all 
the vessels that may arrive here, so that there will be no opportunity 
of writing after to-morrow, until we land at Vera Cruz. 

Great anxiety still prevails on account of General Taylor. Letters 
from San Luis state that Santa Anna has marched on him with over 
fifteen thousand men, and General Taylor cannot muster more than 
five thousand irregulars. A rumor was brought into town yesterday 
by a Mexican, and is believed by the Mexicans, that the armies had 
met and General Taylor had routed the enemy. But the report is 
premature. From the dates on which we know Santa Anna to have 



184 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

left San Luis, he has not had time to reach Saltillo, much less fight 
a battle and have the news brought here. Still, it shows the ex- 
pectation of the Mexicans, and that they are prepared to hear of 
the defeat of fifteen thousand of their best troops by four thousand 
of our volunteers. God grant it may be true, and that the old hero 
has again come off victorious ! 

We, at this place, are in statu quo. Several large ships have ar- 
rived for the transportation of troops, and the presumption is that 
we shall be off in the course of ten days or two weeks for Vera Cruz, 
unless General Taylor should require of General Scott reinforcements, 
in which case there is no telling what will be done. We certainly 
have laid ourselves open to attack; our force is too small to operate 
on one line, and yet we are attempting to hold one and operate on 
another. General Scott may leave General Taylor to his fate, in 
which case about the time we are taking Vera Cruz we may hear of 
the defeat of Taylor, and the evacuation of the country by our troops 
to the Rio Grande. This will be a pretty state of affairs. 

Tampico, February 24, 1847. 

General Scott touched here a few days ago and spent twenty- 
four hours. He seemed to be quite insensible to everything but his 
own expedition, and although the strongest representations were 
made to him of the critical condition in which we believe General 
Taylor to be, he only answered, "Men of straw, men of straw " and 
took no further notice. God grant these men of straw may not throw 
upon his shoulders a responsibility too great for him to bear ! 

They say that the castle is the apple of the eye of the Mexican 
nation; that they know, if we take it, we will blow it up, and it will 
be impossible ever to rebuild it, it having cost over fifty millions of 
dollars, and that they will make any sacrifice to save it. This looks 
plausible, and I trust it may be true, for if Vera Cruz is evacuated, 
we can march at once into the interior, and thus avoid the vomito, 
more to be dreaded than a dozen Mexican armies. 

General Scott has gone to the Island of Lobos, about forty miles 
south of here, where there is comparatively secure anchorage, and 
where the whole fleet of transports is to rendezvous. Nearly all the 
troops at Brazos had embarked when he left, and the embarkation 
is beginning here. 

I shall go with General Patterson, in the course of a few days, as 
soon as half of his command gets off. I continue well and in good 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 185 

spirits. I have enjoyed myself very much in Tampico, which is 
really an agreeable place, after the towns I have recently been in. 
The officers, about a week since, got up a picnic excursion on board 
a steamboat, which they induced some thirty ladies to attend. They 
were mostly the wives and daughters of the foreign consuls, though 
we had some dozen Mexican ladies. We had one of the military 
bands, and went some twenty miles up the river, dancing on the deck 
of the steamer. We started at four in the afternoon, had a little 
supper about nine, and returned to town by twelve. Altogether, it 

was a very pleasant affair. 

February 26. 

It blew a "Norther" all day yesterday, and it continues to blow 
so that no vessel can leave the harbor. Last night we had a little 
hop in town, gotten up by some of the young foreign residents. It 
was much the same thing as one sees everywhere — a well-lighted 
room, good music, and some twenty-five or thirty well-dressed ladies, 
who danced and waltzed as ladies do all over the world. The novelty 
of the thing was agreeable to me, and with those ladies who could 
talk French or English I passed my time very pleasantly, but to the 
Mexican girls, you may well imagine, I had but little to say. There 
was no beauty, and the prettiest girl would not have been noticed 
in one of our ball rooms. The people are very kindly disposed to- 
wards us, and were they not afraid of the return of the Mexicans, and 
being compromised by civility to us, they would be very hospitable. 
Even as it is, their love of amusement overcomes their fears, and we 
had more Mexican girls last night than we had at the picnic. We 
were all in good spirits, because information was received in the after- 
noon that an agent from the Government of the United States, bear- 
ing new propositions, had been landed by the "Potomac" at Vera 
Cruz, and had reached the City of Mexico, and that so important 
were his despatches deemed, an express had been sent to Santa Anna 
for his advice. This agent is said to be Senor Atocha, a Mexican 
who was expelled from his country some years ago, but is said to be 
in the confidence of Santa Anna. Rumor says his proposition is to 
take the twenty-sixth degree of latitude for our Southern boundary, 
and dropping all claims against Mexico, we pay them fifteen millions 
of dollars. This is giving us a monstrously big slice of the Republic, 
but they are in such a desperate condition, I should not be astonished 
if the fifteen millions bought them over. At any rate, we hope so, 
and peace is much talked of. 



186 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

No intelligence from Santa Anna's army, though, at the last 
accounts, he was within a day's march of General Taylor, and a 
battle was looked for hourly. God grant the old General may whip 
him! 

February 27. 
The weather continues unfavorable for the departure of the 
vessel that is to carry the mail. This is bad luck for us, as it stops 
the shipping of the troops, and every day is of the utmost importance. 
No news from General Taylor, though the Mexicans have a rumor 
that Santa Anna's cavalry made a night attack on him, and were 
most signally repulsed. We are in the greatest state of anxiety to 
hear the result, as we are now certain that Santa Anna has thrown 
himself with his whole force upon him. 

February 28. 

I expect I shall leave before my letter, for it is arranged that we 
go to-morrow, early in the morning, in the steamship "Alabama," 
one of the best steamers in the service, and the mail will not probably 
leave till the day after. You may therefore get later intelligence 
than I can give you. Our anxiety about General Taylor still con- 
tinues, as we hear nothing beyond the report I gave you yesterday, 
that he had repulsed a night attack of cavalry. As to Vera Cruz, we 
are in a perfect state of ignorance. One day we hear that it is aban- 
doned, the next that it has a garrison of fifteen thousand men; so 
that you really know not what to believe. My impression is that we 
shall meet with resistance, which we will successfully overcome; and 
such being the case, as I told you before we reached Monterey, the 
more they have there the better. We are going perfectly prepared, 
having, I understand, forty pieces of heavy artillery, besides forty 
large mortars; and the place is to be taken scientifically — that is, 
with the least possible loss of life. I feel perfectly confident of suc- 
cess; we can take the town without much trouble, and the castle 
we will starve out. 

If General Taylor whips Santa Anna, as I hope he will, and be- 
lieve he will till I hear the reverse, and we take Vera Cruz, I think 
there will be some hope of peace. 

We leave to-morrow for Lobos. It will be some time before all 
the troops rendezvous there, and then we have to go to Anton Li- 
zardo, about eighteen miles below Vera Cruz, where it is proposed to 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 187 

land; so that it will be some weeks before we can invest the place. 

I tell you this, that you may not be anxious at not hearing of any 

result. 

Steam Transport "Alabama," 

Harbor op Anton Lizardo, March 8, 1847. 

I wrote you from Tampico, just previous to our embarkation 
for this place. We dropped down to the bar of Tampico on the 1st 
instant, but did not get over it till the evening of the 2d. We had a 
pleasant voyage, except on the 4th, when we had a violent "Norther," 
lasting the whole day; but our ship behaved most beautifully, and 
we reached this anchorage on the morning of the 5th. During that 
day the whole fleet from Lobos came in, and by evening we had some 
seventy sail of all kinds. On the 6th, General Scott, with all the 
general officers of the army, accompanied by the Engineer and Topo- 
graphical Engineer staff, went with Commodore Connor on board 
one of the small naval steamers, to make a reconnoissance of the 
coast, with a view to selecting a suitable point for landing. We 
coasted along quietly till we came to Sacrificios, when we went in 
to take a view of the town and castle. In doing this we went within 
one and a quarter miles of the castle, when it opened its batteries 
on us and fired some eleven shells; luckily quite ineffectually, they 
either falling short or going over our heads. This operation I con- 
sidered very foolish; for, having on board all the general officers of 
the army, one shot, hitting the vessel and disabling it, would have 
left us a floating target to the enemy, and might have been the means 
of breaking up the expedition. It, however, proved the determina- 
tion of the enemy to resist, and all are now of the opinion that hard 
fighting alone will give us the place. Yesterday, the 7th, prepara- 
tions were being made, and orders issued, with reference to landing, 
and it was intended to make the descent to-day at Sacrificios; but 
the usual indications of a "Norther" being so strong, the debarka- 
tion was postponed for the present. 

It is intended to disembark at Sacrificios, out of range of the 
enemy's guns, and then establish a camp around the town, so as to 
cut off all communication with the interior. The enemy's works 
will then be examined, and suitable points selected for trenching the 
walls. Regular approaches will then be made to within three hun- 
dred yards, where our trenching batteries will be established and the 
walls knocked down. The town will then be accessible, and once 
within its walls, in possession of a single house, and they are ours. 



188 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

We have not the slightest doubt of our sure and ultimate success, 
and it is supposed that it will not occupy more than four or five days 
to take the town; the castle will be a work of time, and in my opin- 
ion it will only be reduced by starvation. The length of time it will 
require to do this depends upon the amount of supplies they may 
have on hand. 

So much for our operations. Now for Mexican reports. Through 
the medium of the officers of the English men-of-war stationed at 
Sacrificios, who have constant intercourse with the town, we are 
supplied with the daily files of the "Locomotor/' a paper published 
in Vera Cruz. The number the day we reached here was full of 
patriotic bombast as to the defense they were going to make, and gave 
an account of a young women's procession, in which all the young 
and beautiful creatures of the place had turned out with shovels to 
work on the fortifications. The Englishmen say they had but about 
six thousand men in town and castle, though La Vega, with two thou- 
sand men, was near, and daily expected. With this small force they 
cannot make very great resistance, for we shall have, when all are 
landed, between thirteen and fourteen thousand, and have forty 
heavy guns, and as many mortars, with which we shall soon make the 
place a little too hot for them. 

But the most interesting information in the newspaper is the 
official report to the Supreme Government of Santa Anna, announcing 
a two-days' fight with General Taylor, near Saltillo. He says he 
found General Taylor strongly posted at a pass in front of Saltillo; 
that he attacked him on the 22d of February; that they fought all 
that day and the next, on the evening of which (the 23d) he was 
writing; that the field remained to his army, and he was only pre- 
vented from routing General Taylor by the great strength of his 
position; that he captured three pieces of artillery and two standards; 
that he, himself, has lost one thousand in killed and wounded, Gen- 
eral Taylor having lost two thousand; and after recounting all these 
successes and General Taylor's great loss, he says that the necessity 
of giving proper attention to his wounded will compel him to retire 
upon Agua Neuva, nine miles distant, and if he there finds the sup- 
plies he has ordered up, he will renew the attack. This is about the 
sum and substance of his report, with the addition of much bombast 
about the heroism and courage of his soldiers, and the great sacri- 
fices they have undergone, and the impossibility of expecting such 
conduct unless they are properly fed and paid. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 189 

The conclusion from his report, making due allowance for the 
usual amount of falsehood in such documents, is that he attempted 
for two days to overwhelm General Taylor, but has been foiled, and 
so badly handled as to be compelled to give up the effort and retire. 

If you have received my previous letters from Tampico, you will 
find I have been aware for some time of his critical condition (Gen- 
eral Taylor's) and have had the greatest anxiety. I am now sure 
that when his account is received, it will be found he has sustained 
himself nobly, and has made a proper commentary on the shameful 
conduct of the House of Representatives on the vote of thanks. 

If General Taylor had lost two thousand men (nearly one-half 
his force) and three pieces of artillery, and the enemy is in possession 
of the field (which was his great defense, his position), how is it pos- 
sible that Santa Anna, losing only one-fifteenth of his force, did not 
rout him, or at least oblige him to retreat? — whereas he acknowledges 
that the action is undecided, and that he is compelled to delay its 
final decision till he can get supplies for his wounded. But if in pos- 
session of the field, with an enemy who had lost one-half his force, 
retiring from him, why not wait those supplies on the field, and not 
carry his wounded nine miles? But the inference is evident: he is 
not in possession of the field; he could not dislodge General Taylor, 
and owing to his failure is compelled to retire nine miles, knowing 
General Taylor's force is too small to follow him that distance. We 
therefore consider it a victory, and the pieces of artillery, we pre- 
sume, is some advanced battery of General Taylor's, which he was 
compelled, from superior numbers, to abandon. Santa Anna says 
that it was composed of one four-pounder and two six-pounders. 
Now, General Taylor had a Texas four-pounder, manned by Illinois 
volunteers, and it is possible that this battery, being in front or in 
some exposed position, may have fallen into the enemy's hand. But 
General Taylor has maintained his position and compelled Santa 
Anna to retire, and this was more than was expected of him, for we 
all thought that he would have to retire to the fortifications of Mon- 
terey, whereas the old hero went out in front of Saltillo, and with 
only five thousand men (four thousand five hundred of them volun- 
teers) has beaten back Santa Anna, with the whole of the Mexican 
army, over fifteen thousand men strong, with an overwhelming pre- 
ponderance of heavy artillery. 

We can detect several falsehoods in his report, such as General 
Taylor's having eight thousand men, when we know that he had but 



190 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

five thousand; also that General Taylor had twenty-six pieces of 
artillery, when we know that he had but eighteen; and we attach no 
consideration to his estimate of General Taylor's loss, as he can have 
no means of correctly estimating it. 

It has had the effect to put us all in good spirits; apprehension 
for General Taylor's safety is now removed, and, when we take this 
place, I think the Mexicans will begin to think matters are becoming 
serious. 

The same paper also gives an account of a revolution in the 
capital, gotten up by the clergy, in consequence of the attempt to 
force a loan out of them. The account says that they fought for 
three days, and Gomez Farias is overthrown, in consequence of his 
being the prominent supporter of the obnoxious measure. Still, the 
editor of the paper says both parties, however they may differ upon 
other points, are agreed upon the vigorous prosecution of the war, 
and are only quarrelling about the manner in which the means shall 
be raised. We also understand that three thousand men, under 
orders for Vera Cruz, refused to march, averring that they were not 
afraid of the Yankees, but would not expose themselves to the 
vomito. 

What is going to come out of all this no one can tell. The agent 
of whom I have previously written, Senor Atocha, returned some ten 
days ago. He was much dispirited, and pretty much gave the naval 
officers to understand that his mission had failed, and if we under- 
stand it correctly, I am not surprised. Just take a map and see 
what an immense portion of Mexico is included north of the twenty- 
sixth parallel of latitude, 1 and say whether, if you were a Mexican, 
you would consent to despoil your country of so large a portion of 
its domain? Until the Government of the United States is reason- 
able in its demands, it need not look for peace. Mexico must be 
much more roughly handled than she has been, or is likely to be, 
before she will accede to such exorbitant demands. But enough of 
public matters. 

I have given you all the news, and told you of all our prepara- 
tions. In a few days we shall be engaged in bombarding and batter- 
ing the town, and with the blessing of God I will give you a long 
account of it. 

1 saw on board the "Raritan," flag-ship, Lieutenant Biddle, who 
told me that he had seen you late in January, a month after your 

1 The twenty-sixth parallel of latitude passes through the Brazos de Santiago. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 191 

last letter, and that you were well. He had been at a party at your 
mother's, he said. And from Tom Turner, on board the "Albany," 
I had information that my dear mother, who had been seriously ill, 
was out of all danger and getting well. So that I feel confident that 
all whom I love are safe and in good health. I have also met here 
Henry Bohlen, who is volunteer aide to General Worth, and his 
letters say all their friends are well. Bohlen is looking very well, 
and quite delighted at the prospect of active operations. 

My own opinion is that they will make no resistance to our land- 
ing, though every preparation to meet such an emergency has been 
made. General Worth's brigade lands first, then General Patterson, 
with whom I will land, and then General Twiggs's brigade. We will 
be landed by the navy boats, and our own boats manned and officered 
by the navy. The vessels of war will be there to clear the landing, 
if necessary. As soon as we have landed we will take a position 
around the town, or in military parlance, invest it. Many suppose 
even now that they will give up the town as soon as they see our force 
and the means of attack, but I think they will fight. A few days 
now will tell the story. I am confident of the result, and feel quite 
sanguine. 

Camp before Vera Cruz, March 13, 1847. 

I write you a few lines in haste, to assure you of my health and 
safety. We landed on the 9th instant, without opposition; but on 
the 10th, on commencing our march to invest the town, we were 
met by a small party of infantry and cavalry, which we quickly and 
readily drove from hill to hill till we had surrounded the town. In 
this operation we had a few wounded, but the enemy suffered quite 
severely, having many killed and wounded. Besides this, in taking 
up our positions we were directed to place ourselves beyond the range 
of their guns, but they had placed some in such a position that part 
of our command were, from the nature of the ground, compelled to 
place themselves under their long range. In consequence of this we 
have had a few men wounded and Captain Alburtiss, of the Second 
Infantry, killed. This is our only loss, and he is, I believe, the only 
officer touched, except Lieutenant Colonel Dickinson, South Carolina 
Regiment, who received a slight wound in the breast, and Lieutenant 
Davidson, Second Infantry, wounded in the hand. 

We have now invested the town and cut off all communication 
with the interior. Our batteries will soon be placed, and then the 



192 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

game, which has been altogether on the enemy's side, will begin on 
ours. The enemy are about five thousand strong in town and castle, 
strongly fortified with artillery, but our engineers are confident that 
they will bring them to terms. 

We have information through the Vera Cruz papers, that Santa 
Anna has retreated from Agua Nueva, on the City of Mexico. The 
inference therefore is that he has been completely whipped. 

Camp before Vera Cruz, March 25, 1847. 

You will have heard that Commodore Connor has been relieved 
by Captain Perry. He returns in the " Princeton." 

I have but little intelligence to give you, beyond the fact of my 
safety and good health up to this moment. It has now been two 
days since a battery of ten mortars was opened on the town, which 
has been constantly throwing shells into it. It is presumed that the 
damage done has been very great, and several houses have been 
burnt; but I fear all the injury has fallen on innocent people, non- 
combatants, such as citizens, women and children, and that the sol- 
diery have not been touched. Yesterday a battery of six guns, the 
pieces of which came from the navy, and which was officered and 
manned by the navy, opened on the town, and has been playing for 
twenty-four hours. This morning a battery of four twenty-four- 
pounders and two eight-inch howitzers was also opened, and hopes 
are entertained that these batteries will bring the town to terms. 
My opinion, however, is that they are doing but little damage to 
the enemy's works and troops, and that the town will only be carried 
at the point of the bayonet. 

Our loss has been trifling, considering the great exposure of our 
people. Up to this moment, besides the losses mentioned in my last 
letter, only one officer has been killed, Captain J. R. Vinton, of the 
artillery, who was killed in the trenches. Lieutenant Baldwin, of the 
navy, was slightly hurt yesterday at the naval battery. Besides 
these, some eight or ten men have been killed, and as many wounded; 
a loss most small, when you consider that we have some thirteen 
thousand men, and that a large proportion have been exposed to 
the heavy firing of six of the enemy's batteries for nearly a week. 
But we have been enabled by the advantages of the ground, and 
throwing up works, to protect ourselves. 

For my individual part I have been pretty much a spectator for a 
week, the Corps of Engineers having performed all the engineering 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 193 

that has been done. This is attributable to the presence of Colonel 
Totten, who wishes to make as much capital for his own corps, and 
give us as little, as possible. My great regret now is that I was sepa- 
rated from General Taylor. His brilliant achievement at Buena 
Vista, exceeding any feat ever yet performed by our arms, or which 
ever will be, I should have gloried to have shared in, and regret ex- 
ceedingly fate should have decided otherwise. 

Harry Ingersoll commanded yesterday the gun from his ship in 
the naval battery. He had several men killed at his gun, and had 
his hat knocked off, besides other escapes; but I saw him after he 
was relieved, and he was safe and sound. This opportunity has 
been afforded the navy, owing to its great anxiety to do something, 
and there being no opportunity on its own element. 



March 27, 1847. 

A violent "Norther" prevented the "Princeton" from sailing 
yesterday, and it has turned out very well, for yesterday a flag came 
in from the enemy, asking for terms. General Scott's reply was 
prompt and conclusive: Nothing but an unconditional surrender of 
town and castle. 

They made some demurring, but commissioners have been ap- 
pointed on both sides, and are at this moment (10 a. m.) endeavoring 
to arrange terms satisfactory to the Mexicans. It is evident from 
this fact that the game is up for the Mexicans; the town is ours 
beyond a doubt, for they would not ask for terms if they were not 
willing to give it up. 

The "Princeton" will wait for the result, and you will hear it by 
her. Should they not come to General Scott's terms, one day more 
will give us the town by force of arms, and then we will go to work 
on the castle. 

I cannot write more. I am well and trust in God's mercy all 
will come out right. 

I regret to say that young Schubrick, of the navy, was killed, day 
before yesterday, at the naval battery. His mother was a du Pont. 

New Orleans, April 9, 1847. 
I have reached thus far on my way home, having been, as you 
will see by the enclosed document, ordered to Washington by Gen- 
eral Scott, or in other words "honorably discharged." WThen I last 



194 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

wrote to you (March 27th), I had but little conception that any such 
great happiness was in store for me; but our good friend General 
Worth (who has done everything in his power to convince me he 
had no agency in the omission in his report of the paragraph relating 
to me) represented, without my knowledge, to General Scott the 
length of time I had been in the field, and the faithful services I had 
rendered. General Scott, being aware that I did not legitimately 
belong to the column under his command, at once said: "If Major 
Turnbull, Chief Topographical Engineer, will say Mr. Meade's ser- 
vices are not absolutely necessary, I will order him to Washington." 
Major Turnbull said that I was unexpectedly with him, that I did 
not belong to his detail, and consequently he had officers enough 
without me. The order was therefore issued, of which I send you a 
copy, and I took passage on the 31st ultimo, on board the steamer 
"Alabama," expecting to be here some six days ago. But she was 
obliged to stop at Tampico, where we remained two days, and also 
at the Brazos, where we lost a day; and then one of the boilers gave 
out, just as we crossed the bar of the Mississippi, and detained us 
twenty-four hours in getting up the river. All these things caused 
us to fail in reaching here before last evening. 

I also enclose you a letter addressed to the Adjutant General 
at Washington, by which you will perceive that the error with 
reference to myself in General Worth's report is disclaimed as in- 
tentional. 

What will you say to my return? and what will your dear father 
say? I will frankly acknowledge that I had a most anxious time in 
making up my mind what to do. I, however, reasoned that it was 
my intention, from the first moment I left you, to perform my duty 
and remain so long as duty required me, but to retire whenever I 
could do so honorably, and I could not retire in a more honorable 
manner than I have done. 

Again, I found myself at Vera Cruz a perfect cipher, the major, 
three captains and one lieutenant I had over my head depriving me of 
any opportunity I might otherwise have of distinction. 

Thirdly. Though I have said and written nothing about it, be- 
cause I could not help it, yet the expenditure of my whole pay while 
in the field, and leaving you without any share, has been a source of 
mortification to me greater than I can describe. 

Finally, I consulted my friends, some of the most distinguished 
officers of the army, such as Lieutenant Colonel C. F. Smith and 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 195 

Lieutenant Colonel Duncan, General Worth and others, and all of 
them advised me to leave. 

The above were the reasons influencing me; but I had, neverthe- 
less, to struggle against my own personal inclination, which, I frankly 
confess, was to remain, and against the fear that, when I report to 
Colonel Abert, he may either send me right back to General Taylor, 
or else send me to some out-of-the-way place, where my separation 
will be almost as complete from you, without all the advantages of 
being with an army in the field. However, I will hope for the best, 
and not anticipate evils; but I sincerely trust that both yourself 
and father will not disapprove of the step I have taken. I do not 
now speak of the happiness we both shall feel at being reunited, but 
I speak of it as a question of duty and honor, and with reference to 
future interests. 

However, for better or worse, here I am on my way back to you. 
I shall be detained here two days, for I have a public account to close 
in bank, and I am literally without even the necessary garments to 
travel in. I may be detained a day in Charleston, and shall certainly 
be one in Washington. You need hardly expect me, then, before the 
22d or 23d, though, rest assured, I shall leave no exertion unspared 
to hasten the moment when I shall hold you and my ever dear chil- 
dren in my arms. 

I forgot to say that I had seen in the papers my brevet for Mon- 
terey, and just on leaving Vera Cruz got your letter, referring to the 
same. Of course, I feel complimented and gratified at any notice 
being taken of my services, and am truly grateful to your good father 
for the exertion of his good offices on my behalf. I will soon see him, 
however, and return my thanks in person. 

On Board the Mail Steamer, 

In the River Potomac, April 20, 1847. 

We are within a few miles of Washington, and I write these few 
lines to inform you of my safe arrival thus far. Owing to our taking 
a boat on the Alabama River, instead of the mail coach from Mobile, 
we lost a day, and I remained a day in Charleston, to transact some 
business with individuals residing there. This has put me back two 
days, so that I shall not see you, as I hoped, on the 20th. To-morrow 
I must remain in Washington, to report to Colonel Abert and settle 
some accounts at the Department. If all things go right, I hope to 
leave the next day for Philadelphia, in which case you may look 



196 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

for me to dinner. I may come on in the night train, but I am 
so fatigued with traveling at night that I now propose to come 
in the day line. 1 

1 On the night of March 27 articles of capitulation were signed and exchanged, 
and General Scott on the 29th took possession of Vera Cruz and the castle of 
San Juan d'Ulloa. On April the 8th General Scott began his advance on the 
city of Mexico, and after defeating the Mexicans at Cerro Gordo, Jalapa, Puebla, 
Contreras, Churubusco, and Chapultepec he attacked the capital and entered it 
September 14, 1847. The army occupied the city of Mexico until the treaty of 
peace was signed, February, 1848. 

The following served with the army in Mexico under Generals Taylor and 
Scott and afterward became conspicuous in the Civil War and are subsequently 
mentioned. 

UNITED STATES ARMY 

George A. McCall, assistant adjutant-general, afterward commanded the 
Pennsylvania Reserves in the Federal Army of the Potomac. 

Joseph Hooker, assistant adjutant-general, afterward commanded the Army 
of the Potomac at the battle of Chancellorsville, May, 1863. 

Irvin W. McDowell, assistant adjutant-general, afterward commanded the 
Federal forces at the first battle of Bull Run, July, 1861. 

Robert E. Lee, captain Engineer Corps, afterward commander-in-chief Con- 
federate States Army, and commanded the Confederate Army of Northern 
Virginia at the battle of Gettysburg, July, 1863. 

P. G. T. Beauregard, first lieutenant Engineer Corps, afterward commanded 
the Confederate forces at the battle of Shiloh, April, 1862. 

George B. McClellan, second lieutenant Engineer Corps, afterward organizer 
and commander of the Army of the Potomac. 

Joseph E. Johnston, captain Topographical Engineer, afterward commanded 
the Confederate forces at the first battle of Bull Run, July, 1861 ; also commanded 
the Confederate forces opposing General Sherman's March to Atlanta, 1865. 

George G. Meade, second lieutenant Topographical Engineers, afterward com- 
manded the Army of the Potomac at the battle of Gettysburg, July, 1863. 

John Pope, second lieutenant Topographical Engineers, afterward commanded 
the Federal forces at the battle of Cedar Mountain, August, 1862. 

Richard S. Ewell, first lieutenant First Regiment of Dragoons, afterward 
commanded the Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, at the battle of 
Gettysburg. 

George Stoneman, second lieutenant First Regiment of Dragoons, afterward 
commanded the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac in the campaign known as 
"Stoneman's cavalry raid," May, 1863. 

Alfred Pleasanton, second lieutenant Second Regiment of Dragoons, afterward 
chief of cavalry Army of the Potomac, at the battle of Gettysburg. 

Abner Doubleday, first lieutenant First Regiment of Artillery, afterward, on 
the death of General Reynolds, commanded the First Corps, Army of the 
Potomac, at the battle of Gettysburg. 

William H. French, first lieutenant First Regiment of Artillery, afterward 
commanded the Federal forces at Harper's Ferry during the Gettysburg cam- 
paign. 



MEXICAN WAR LETTERS 197 

Seth Williams, first lieutenant First Regiment of Artillery, afterward as- 
sistant adjutant-general of the Army of the Potomac at the battle of Gettys- 
burg. 

Ambrose P. Hill, second lieutenant First Regiment of Artillery, afterward 
commanded Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, at the battle of Gettys- 
burg, and killed at the battle of Petersburg, April, 1865. 

Henry J. Hunt, first lieutenant Second Regiment Artillery, afterward chief 
of artillery Army of the Potomac at the battle of Gettysburg. 

John Sedgwick, first lieutenant Second Regiment of Artillery, afterward 
commanded the Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac, at the battle of Gettysburg, 
and killed at the battle of Spottsylvania C. H., May, 1864. 

Richard H. Rush, second lieutenant Second Regiment of Artillery, afterward 
colonel Sixth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry (Rush's Lancers), Army of the 
Potomac. 

Braxton Bragg, captain Third Regiment of Artillery, afterward commanded 
Confederate forces in the Civil War. 

Edward O. C. Ord, first lieutenant Third Regiment of Artillery, afterward 
commanded the Federal forces at the battle of Dranesville, December, 1861. 

John F. Reynolds, first lieutenant Third Regiment of Artillery, afterward 
commanded the left wing of the Army of the Potomac at the battle of Gettys- 
burg, and killed July 1, 1863. 

George H. Thomas, first lieutenant Third Regiment of Artillery, afterward 
commanded the Federal Army of the Cumberland. 

Ambrose E. Burnside, second lieutenant Third Regiment of Artillery, after- 
ward commanded the Army of the Potomac at the battle of Fredericksburg, 
December, 1862. 

John Gibbon, second lieutenant Fourth Regiment of Artillery, afterward 
commanded the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, at the battle of Gettys- 
burg. 

George Sykes, first lieutenant Third Regiment of Infantry, afterward com- 
manded the Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac, at the battle of Gettysburg. 

Ulysses S. Grant, second lieutenant Fourth Regiment of Infantry, afterward 
commander-in-chief United States Army and President of the United States. 

Lewis A. Armistead, first lieutenant Sixth Regiment of Infantry, afterward 
commanded a brigade in "Pickett's charge" at the battle of Gettysburg and was 
wounded and died within the Union lines. 

Edward Johnson, first lieutenant Sixth Regiment of Infantry, afterward com- 
manded a division in the Army of Northern Virginia at the battle of Gettys- 
burg. 

Winfield S. Hancock, second lieutenant Sixth Regiment of Infantry, after- 
ward commanded the centre of the Army of the Potomac at the battle of 
Gettysburg. 

Lafayette McLaws, first lieutenant Seventh Regiment of Infantry, afterward 
commanded a division in the Army of Northern Virginia at the battle of 
Gettysburg. 

James Longstreet, first lieutenant Eighth Regiment of Infantry, afterward 
commanded the First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, at the battle of Gettys- 
burg. 

George E. Pickett, second lieutenant Eighth Regiment of Infantry, afterward 
commanded a division in the Army of Northern Virginia and led the assault 
known as "Pickett's charge" at the battle of Gettysburg. 



198 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

UNITED STATES VOLUNTEERS 

Jefferson Davis, colonel First Regiment Mississippi Rifles, afterward President 
of Confederacy. 

John W. Geary, colonel Second Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, afterward 
commanded a division of the Twelfth Corps, Army of the Potomac, at the battle 
of Gettysburg. 

Jubal A. Early, major Virginia Volunteers, afterward commanded a division 
in the Army of Northern Virginia at the battle of Gettysburg. 



PART III 

NARRATIVE FROM THE END OF THE MEXICAN WAR 
LETTERS TO THE CIVIL WAR LETTERS 

1847-1861 

The part taken by Lieutenant Meade in the Mexican War is 
incidentally well indicated by the preceding letters. That his ser- 
vices were appreciated by his immediate superiors is amply proved 
by frequent mention of him in their official reports. As to the gen- 
eral impression which his character and ability produced, a man of 
sound judgment wrote from Washington: "I have had great pleasure 
in learning here accounts of Mr. Meade, the same as you mention; 
that is to say, that he is in high estimation in the army, and known to 
everybody, Lieutenant Luther spoke of him to Mrs. Wise, she tells 
me, as a most efficient officer, much consulted, employed and relied 

upon. Major appeared to me very shy of giving him credit 

on fit occasions. For instance, I heard him speak of General Worth's 
operations at Monterey. He said General Worth had a plan or map 
before him, of positions, routes, etc., but did not say a word of Mr. 
Meade, who probably furnished the map, and at all events, the ma- 
terials for it. This morning, however, he showed incidentally in a 
general talk we had about military matters and the Topographical 
Corps, that he knew well Mr. Meade's merits and his distinguished 
position. He quoted what General Worth had said about Mr. 
Meade's value, and his courage and bravery, and also said (whether 
from General Worth or himself or both, I do not know) he was such 
a gentleman. He told me, too (but this must be kept to yourselves), 
that he had seen a letter of General Worth to the government, 
speaking in very high terms of Mr. Meade, but did not find the pas- 
sage in the public despatch. He has promised to show me all the 
plans, maps, etc. I have been more or less addicted for some years 
past to a sort of military reading, I did not know why; but now find 
it of some use, if cautious not to make any pretensions to military 
knowledge. There is one fact with regard to Mr. Meade, not now 

199 



200 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

so fruitful as it will some time be, worthy of Margaret's 1 recollection, 
for it will in due time be productive of results, and I wish her to re- 
member it. By universal concession the corps (Topographical) has 
gained greatly in public favor during the war as an arm of importance. 
General Taylor, it is understood, has become convinced of it, though 
at first he held it in little estimation. You observe, too, that re- 
cently more of the corps (five) have been sent to the army, and it is 
now proposed to increase its force. The fact, then, I refer to is this, 
that the revolution has taken place when Mr. Meade has been nearly 
the whole of the time the only officer of the corps with the army, to 
demonstrate its efficiency and thus work the change in the public 
mind. He has certainly been the chief if not the only agent in bring- 
ing about the change. I am more than satisfied, indeed gratified 
beyond my expectations, by the character he has acquired. For who 
could have supposed that with his low grade, and singly, by his own 
exertions, in a comparatively obscure branch of the service, he could 
in so short a time have done so much for himself and his corps, not 
by any chance exhibition, but by the steady employment of his talents 
and accomplishments in the way of his duty!" 

Lieutenant Meade duly arrived in Washington, and upon report- 
ing to the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, found that his antici- 
pations of being reordered to Mexico, or being doomed to some out- 
of-the-way post, were not realized. His reception was of the most 
flattering character, and much to his gratification he was directed to 
proceed to Philadelphia and resume his duties under Major Bache. 

The cordial welcome extended to Lieutenant Meade by his 
numerous friends, and the honors paid him by his fellow-citizens of 
Philadelphia, greatly enhanced the pleasure he derived from his long- 
wished-for return to his home and family. Among many other 
marks of recognition of his services, he was presented by some of his 
fellow-citizens with a beautiful and costly sword, as a tribute to his 
gallant conduct in the several actions in Mexico. 

He was soon at work assisting Major Bache in the construction 
of the Brandywine light-house in Delaware Bay, and in making a 
survey on the Florida Reef, and remained thus employed until Sep- 
tember, 1849, when, the services of a topographical engineer being 
required in Florida, he was selected for the duty and ordered to report 
to Brevet Major-General Twiggs, at Tampa. 

The remnant of the tribe of Seminole Indians, which still occu- 
1 Wife of Lieutenant Meade. 



NARRATIVE 201 

pied parts of Florida, had, after faithfully keeping for seven years 
the treaty made with them in 1842, by General Worth, become dis- 
satisfied, and in the summer of 1849, had shown indications of an 
approaching outbreak. Several murders had been committed by 
them, and the citizens living in that district had become alarmed 
and compelled to fly from their homes, and for a while it looked as if 
another Florida war were imminent. 

General Twiggs had been ordered to assume command at Tampa, 
with instructions to adopt such measures as might be needful to 
secure the frontier or to punish the Indians. It was to assist in this 
duty that Lieutenant Meade had been ordered to join the command. 
Judging from previous experience with General Twiggs, he did not 
anticipate a pleasant tour of duty. He had served with that officer 
in the advance of General Taylor's army from Corpus Christi to the 
Rio Grande, in 1846, and owing to some unpleasant passages occurring 
at that time no good feeling existed between them. 

He reported to the general in October, at Fort Brooke, and his 
reception is described as of the most formal character. The gen- 
eral, after giving him instructions, inquired of him what outfit he 
needed, and was much surprised at his modest demand for " two men 
and a mule." 

His orders were to make a reconnoissance of the country so as to 
put the general in possession of sufficient topographical knowledge 
to enable him, if it became necessary, to move his troops with facility. 
He was also instructed to select the sites for a line of forts on the best 
route between Fort Brooke at Tampa, and Fort Peirce at Indian 
River, on the east coast of Florida. 

He set to work, as he always did, to execute what he had to do 
in the most expeditious and thorough manner. The promptness 
with which he furnished the required information, the excellence of 
his work, and the completeness of his reports, soon attracted the 
attention of General Twiggs, who remarked to his adjutant-general: 
"Meade is doing good work and putting on no staff airs. Order the 
quartermaster to send him a proper outfit and make him comfort- 
able." This being done, Lieutenant Meade for some time supposed 
that he was indebted for it to the kindness of his personal friend, the 
adjutant-general, Brevet Major William W. Mackall, and was much 
surprised to learn from that officer that it had been done at the 
instance of the general himself. 

There had been some preliminary surveys made, previous to 



202 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Lieutenant Meade's arrival, for the site of the first post on the line 
described between the western and eastern coasts of Florida. One 
of the results of his survey was, however, the indication of another 
point, on Peas Creek, as the true position for the post. Thereupon 
a lively discussion having arisen on the question, General Twiggs 
finally made a personal examination of the ground, which led to his 
confirming Lieutenant Meade's selection, and as a recognition of his 
judgment in the special case, and of his general good service and con- 
duct, he caused the post to be named Fort Meade. 

The Indian troubles were settled without any military move- 
ments, and the duty for which Lieutenant Meade had been ordered 
to Florida having been accomplished, he was, in February, 1850, 
relieved by General Twiggs in a very complimentary order and in- 
structed to report to the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, and by 
it remanded to his old station in Philadelphia. 

He here continued with Major Bache until the completion of 
the Brandywine light-house in the summer of 1851. Then, under 
instructions from the bureau, he assumed charge of the building of 
the light-house on Carysfort Reef, Florida, a very important and 
difficult work, which had been in charge of Major Linnard, of the 
Corps of Topographical Engineers, during the winter until his sudden 
death in the spring of 1851, whereupon the duty of continuing its 
construction was assigned to Lieutenant Meade. 

The continuation of the construction of the Carysfort Reef light- 
house, Florida, was the first work of the kind in which Lieutenant 
Meade was in charge, although he had had some experience of that 
sort of construction while serving in a subordinate capacity. This 
was the beginning of an employment in that branch of the service 
for several years. 

At that date, 1851, the construction of light-houses, as to variety 
of structure to support the light, adaptation to ground, and lighting 
apparatus itself, was in its infancy. Knowledge of these matters, 
be it understood, was not exactly in its infancy, nor was there 
wanting, as had been even then proved, plenty of ability in adopting 
the best appliances known, and in adapting them to, or modifying 
them for, any possible existing conditions. But within only a re- 
cent period, when it was felt that the time had arrived for a national 
system of lighting the coasts, the building and lighting of houses had 
been executed in an obsolete and a desultory fashion. In the mat- 
ter of lighting apparatus alone, many light-houses still had the old- 



NARRATIVE 203 

fashioned reflecting apparatus, modern only as compared with the 
immemorial ancient beacon fire. It was no longer ago than 1827 
that Fresnel had died, after having, through his discoveries, within a 
few years of his death, revolutionized the whole system of lighting. 
His improvements, added to by those of the Stevensons and others, 
had by 1850 rendered the system of lighting apparatus perfect. We 
had acquired power over the whole range of artificial light, could 
reflect and refract it, combine the reflecting and refracting systems, 
and even treat it so that there should be no waste. The screw-pile 
and the hydraulic-pile had also been invented and applied to the 
construction of the foundation of towers, and great works in masonry 
had been executed for light-houses on the coast of England, so that 
splendid examples had been afforded of the possibilities of light-house 
construction in various localities. But the Light-House Board of 
the United States was not organized until August, 1852, so at the 
period when Lieutenant Meade took charge of the construction of 
the Carysfort Reef light-house he entered upon the work under 
the direction of the chief of his corps, Colonel Abert, to help acquire, 
not to benefit by, the experience which now, by this date, has, under 
the auspices of the Light-House Board, perfected the light-house 
system of the United States. He came admirably equipped for the 
work, through his general training, through special training in such 
work in the office of Major Bache, through the special aptitude which 
he had for it, and through the zeal with which he always threw him- 
self into anything that came within the line of his duty. 

Although late in the season of 1851 for operations in a semi- 
tropical climate, Lieutenant Meade at once proceeded to Florida 
and took charge of the construction of Carysfort Reef light. Hence- 
forth, for several years, his duties in light-house construction neces- 
sitated his travelling constantly from point to point on the coast 
and brief sojourns there. Although himself precluded from enjoy- 
ing the comforts and solace of a settled home, he determined, in the 
interest of his young children, that home, with all that it ought to 
imply of education, good habits, and formation of friendships in 
early life, should not be wanting to his family. Accordingly he de- 
cided that the family should continue to live in Philadelphia, which 
offered advantages so signal for education and comfort, and where, 
besides, they were surrounded by relatives and friends, the already 
wide family circle having been even lately increased by the presence 
of his aged mother, who had removed from Washington to take up 



204 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

her permanent residence in Philadelphia. Thus he had been favor- 
ably placed, occupying the same house which he had taken soon after 
being ordered to duty with Major Bache in 1843, and for the last three 
years enjoying the society of his mother, who lived in her own house 
only a short distance from his. The unmarred serenity of this life 
was destined to be rudely broken about this period by death in the 
family. In 1852 he and his wife experienced a great shock in the 
death of his mother and of her father. His affection for his mother 
had been very deep. A mere boy at the time of his father's death, 
doubtless it had been intensified by increased maternal tenderness 
at that period. But whatever the cause, the tie was an unusually 
close one, maintained on both sides with the most touching con- 
stancy. She died on the 22d of March, 1852. The death of Mr. 
Sergeant, closely following on the 25th of November of the same 
year, was also a severe blow to his daughter, and as well to his son- 
in-law, whom he had made doubly his son by reposing in him a con- 
fidence scarcely exceeded by his own mother's. Mutually apprecia- 
tive of each other, Mr. Sergeant, to the day of his death, continued to 
entertain the favorable opinion which he had early expressed as to 
his son-in-law's capacity, and his son-in-law in his turn had firm faith 
in and reliance on Mr. Sergeant, who, though retired from active 
participation in public affairs on account of years and increasing in- 
firmities, died full of honors. In the years to come when the young 
lieutenant of Topographical Engineers had risen to the command 
of a great army, had won a splendid victory against an enemy 
flushed with constant success, and, at the zenith of his fame, was re- 
ceiving the plaudits of his countrymen, he was heard to say that he 
could have wished that these two were present to see that he had 
not proved unworthy of their faith. 

On August 4th, 1851, Lieutenant Meade received his promotion 
as first lieutenant of Topographical Engineers. 

From the manuscripts and printed matter, comprising letters 
and reports of Lieutenant Meade and reports of the Light-House 
Board, is drawn what is necessary to give the following resume of 
his labors on light-house construction. 

On February 26, 1852, we find him writing from Carysfort Reef 
to Colonel Abert, reporting that the temporary illuminating appa- 
ratus of the catoptric kind, to be used while awaiting arrival of the 
dioptric one, would be ready for lighting on the 10th of March. An 
absurd contretemps had happened regarding the dioptric apparatus. 



NARRATIVE 205 

It had been received in the New York custom-house, and, remaining 
there more than nine months, had been sold to the highest bidder. 
In this, Lieutenant Meade's first report regarding light-house mat- 
ters, he discusses the various apprehended dangers from wind, wave, 
and atmosphere, to iron-pile structures — a discussion suggested by 
popular prejudice against such structures, originating in popular 
misapprehension of the differences between the construction and the 
sites, respectively, of Carysfort Reef, Florida, and Minot's Ledge, 
Massachusetts, where a light-house had been destroyed in a storm. 

In August, 1852, we find him, upon a requisition from the Light- 
House Board, supplying information regarding the Florida light- 
houses at Carysfort Reef and Sand Key and the Sand Key light-ship. 
In answer to a request conveyed through the secretary of the Light- 
House Board, he gave a general scheme for the lighting of the Florida 
Reef, incidentally discussing the kind of light-house best adapted in 
his opinion to the purpose — one whose substructure should be neither 
wholly of masonry nor wholly of piles, but a combination of the two, 
with masonry for the foundation into which to set the piles. This 
would, on the one hand, he said, avoid the great first cost of light- 
houses built wholly of masonry and, on the other, the perishableness 
of piles in contact with salt water and air. We shall see later that he 
changed his opinion as to the character of light-house best adapted 
to the region, and frankly confessed it. 

In August, 1853, we find him writing to Colonel Abert a most 
interesting account of Sand Key light-house, designed, all but the 
watch-room and lantern, by Civil-Engineer I. W. P. Lewis, of Boston. 
The description of the optical phenomena exhibited by the particu- 
lar First Order Fresnel apparatus to be used in this light-house is 
noteworthy for its clearness of expression on a difficult subject, as it 
has the precision of a mathematical treatise. 

An interesting episode of light-house duty occurred in connection 
with the Crystal Palace Exposition in 1853. A First Order Fresnel 
lenticular apparatus intended for the Cape Hatteras light-house, was 
exhibited at the exposition, and in this connection we have a letter 
from Admiral (then Captain) du Pont to Lieutenant Meade, urging 
him to expedite certain routine matters and come if possible to New 
York to confer with him and superintend the setting up of the appa- 
ratus in the Crystal Palace. This apparatus was exhibited for the 
purpose of giving popular information regarding this, at that period, 
comparatively unknown invention. Full notes descriptive of the 



206 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

apparatus are among Lieutenant Meade's papers, in his handwriting, 
written with a precision and clearness that would have entitled them 
to a place in an encyclopaedia. They were evidently made out (as 
is shown by the fact that they were found with a slip from a New 
York newspaper of October 1, 1853, embodying the same information 
with the amplifications that a newspaper man would make) for the 
purpose of correctly informing the writer of the printed article, so 
that he in turn could enlighten the public. 

In October, 1853, Lieutenant Meade reported to the secretary of 
the Light-House Board that the light at Sand Key was exhibited 
July 20th for the first time, that the plans and estimates for a beacon 
on Rebecca Shoal were made, that the plans and estimates for a 
light-house in the northwest channel, Key West Harbor, were 
nearly ready, that the plans and estimates for light-houses at Cedar 
Keys Coffin's Patches would be prepared as soon as possible con- 
sistently with due care. 

In December, 1853, letters passed between the secretary of state, 
secretary of war, and the chairman of the Light-House Board, show- 
ing, on the one part, intention to withdraw Lieutenant Meade from 
his duties in light-house construction and, on the other, resistance to 
accomplishment of that intention. His usefulness in the sphere in 
which he was acting had by this time become so well recognized by 
the Light-House Board that the intention of relieving him from his 
duties under it was abandoned. 

In January, 1854, he gave full plans and estimates for the light- 
house to be erected on Sea Horse Key, Florida, discussing the char- 
acter of the lighting apparatus, the physical characteristics of the key, 
and the question of the title to the land, and in the following April 
sent in a report from a preliminary examination of Coffin's Patches, 
with reference to the erection of a light-house there. In that con- 
nection he retracts his opinion, given in 1852, that a combination of 
masonry, upon which should be superposed iron piles, would be the 
best construction for such places, giving the maximum stability, and, 
although greater in first cost, in the interest of true economy. He 
said that, if for no other reason than the expense of the light-house 
establishment on coasts so extended as those of the United States, 
they would not be warranted in adopting that plan. But, independent 
of that, he said, he must admit that he had acquired more faith than 
he had had in the durability of structures on iron piles, and that 
experience and reflection had convinced him that they would, with 



NARRATIVE 207 

proper precautions, last as long as the superstructure of iron. The 
matter and the manner of this and similar discussions afford admi- 
rable examples of Lieutenant Meade's habits of investigation and 
careful statement, giving due weight to all reasons that could be 
adduced for or against a project, even his own, neither magnifying 
nor slurring over any point, to gain a purpose, to ride a hobby; his 
purpose being single, to get at the truth, and knowing that this 
often presents itself as many-sided. Frankly, if the conclusions 
which he had reached came to be modified or reversed in his own 
mind, he would admit, and even go out of his way to state the fact, 
so as not to mislead by leaving on record, whether verbal or written, 
what misrepresented the views which he finally held. This action, 
growing out of the truthfulness of his nature, pervaded everything 
he said and did in his daily life. 

Among Lieutenant Meade's papers is a detailed description of a 
lamp invented by him for the light-house at Sand Key, as a substi- 
tute for the Cancel Lamp, which is operated by clock-work in con- 
nection with an oil pump. This pump, the chief point of which is 
its having its reservoir in the dome of the light-house, and acting by 
hydraulic pressure, is perfectly well adapted for light-house purposes 
in climates where the temperatures, as at Sand Key, never sink very 
low. 

On April 13, Lieutenant Meade relieved of his charge of the 
Fourth Light-House District his old chief, Major Bache, who was 
ordered to the Pacific coast on light-house construction, and from 
this time forward to the end of the term of his light-house duties, he 
administered the affairs of both the Fourth and Seventh Light-House 
Districts. 

Enough has been said to show that in this portion of Lieutenant 
Meade's work, as elsewhere, he applied himself diligently to his 
profession, sparing no pains in the performance of the specific duties 
devolved upon him. When he was relieved from duty in this service 
by Lieutenant (now Colonel) W. F. Reynolds, his successor in light- 
house construction, he turned over to him May 31, 1856, the charge 
of the Fourth and Seventh Light-House Districts, in which the fol- 
lowing light-houses were either in process of construction or repair: 

Absecum, New Jersey; Cross Ledge, Delaware Bay; Ship John 
Shoal, Delaware Bay; Brandy wine Shoal, Delaware Bay; Reedy 
Island, Delaware River; Rebecca Shoal Beacon, Florida; Jupiter 
Inlet, Florida; Coffin's Patches, Florida. 



208 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Through an order, of April 24, 1856, relieving Lieutenant Meade 
from duty in the light-house service, and instructing him "to report 
as assistant to the officer in charge of the survey of the lakes," he 
became attached to that work. In the following month — May 19 — 
he was promoted captain of Topographical Engineers for fourteen 
years continuous service; and by Special Orders No. 70, of May 20, 
1857, from the adjutant-general's office, Washington, District of 
Columbia, Captain Meade was assigned to duty in charge of the 
lake survey. 

The lake survey, begun in 1841, completed in 1881, and but 
slightly retarded by the Mexican War, was at first of a compara- 
tively rude character, not deserving the name of geodetic. It lacked 
methods of precision and was greatly hampered by want of proper 
instruments, astronomical and others. Nothing much was possible 
at the beginning, with an initial appropriation of only $15,000, and 
but small appropriations following, while a vast expanse of country 
had to be surveyed, of which it was desirable, owing to the entire 
absence of surveys over it, to embrace as large an area as possible 
in the least possible time. This, among the other causes mentioned, 
led to an inadequacy which had to be remedied in the future. The 
surveys at the very beginning were what were not long afterward 
regarded as of no higher grade than fine reconnoissances, and were 
eventually revised with new and proper instruments, and methods 
of the utmost precision. 

With increased appropriations and the ability which these give 
to furnish proper appliances, the survey rapidly assumed the char- 
acter of a geodetic survey, measuring its bases with the best appa- 
ratus, determining its latitudes, longitudes, and azimuths with ap- 
proved instruments and methods. These included the hypsometry 
and the meteorology of the country, the magnetic declination, dip, 
and intensity, the changes of water-level, the set of currents; and in 
short, all those departments which belong to a geodetic survey of the 
first class. 

At the beginning of the survey, in 1841, the upper lake region 
was only sparsely occupied; but settlers were beginning to pour in, 
and commerce was increasing among the lake ports. At this time, 
the waters of all the lakes were but imperfectly known, leading yearly 
to much loss of life and property upon them. There were no charts 
of the shores of the lakes, except those derived from reconnoissances 
made by Captain Bayfield, of the British navy, and these, giving the 



NARRATIVE 209 

depth of water only in isolated places, and being inadequate for the 
needs of American ship-masters, were in little use. Light-houses and 
beacons were very few, and captains of vessels practically learned the 
navigation by grounding on shoals or being bilged on unknown rocks. 
The gales on the lakes were sometimes violent and continuous, and, 
in stress of weather, any offing in which a vessel might endeavor to 
lay to might be inadequate to keep her from going ashore. Under 
these circumstances, the dissemination of knowledge of the lake 
ports, through charts with directions for their use, the building of 
light-houses and beacons, and the placing of buoys, were impera- 
tive duties of the general government, especially in view of the ad- 
vance of population and the increase of traffic on the lakes. All these 
things were within the province of the lake survey, either directly or 
indirectly, to accomplish through its survey of the region. The mag- 
nitude of the work may be imagined from the fact that the American 
shore-line of the lakes, with their islands, was 4,700 miles in length, 
and the total amount of the shore-line actually surveyed, including 
rivers and small streams, amounted to 6,000 miles. 

The officers who were successively in charge of the work were in 
the following order: Captain W. G. Williams, Lieutenant-Colonel 
James Kearney, Captain J. N. Macomb, Lieutenant-Colonel James 
Kearney, Captain George G. Meade, Colonel James D. Graham, 
Lieutenant-Colonel W. F. Reynolds, Major Cyrus B. Comstock, 
Captain Henry M. Adams, and Major Cyrus B. Comstock. Cap- 
tain Meade's term of service in charge, being from 1857 to 1861, 
occurred very nearly in the middle of the whole period of the dura- 
tion of the lake survey, which, as has been mentioned, was from 1851 
to 1881. He entered upon this service at a time when the appliances 
and methods of the survey had long been of constantly improving 
geodetic grade, although, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Comstock, 
in the final report of the lake survey, it did not reach until 1870 the 
highest refinement in its theodolite work, and in the elimination of 
instrumental errors. With his usual promptness in throwing himself 
zealously into whatever he undertook, and improving and perfecting 
wherever he found anything that he thought was susceptible of im- 
provement, Captain Meade left his mark upon some of the processes 
committed to his care, introduced others, and carried the survey 
well forward in its general progress. 

As in the case of his light-house duty, Captain Meade came well 
prepared to the charge of the lake survey. He had that compre- 



210 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

hensive mental grasp of the country which makes the born surveyor, 
to perfect which practice alone is needed, and without which no 
amount of practice is of any avail. This aptitude, which must have 
been apparent to every one associated with him in his previous or 
subsequent military career, had, at the time of his attachment to the 
lake survey, received much, if not final, development through his 
association, as assistant for some years, with Major Bache. With 
him a natural tendency to precision was fostered by office-work, 
and a knowledge of the best practice in at least topography and 
hydrography was necessarily acquired. 

The principal work accomplished by Captain Meade during his 
administration was the survey of the whole of Lake Huron, and the 
completion of that of Saginaw Bay. "In 1860," as stated by Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel Comstock, in the report before mentioned, "the sur- 
vey of the northeast end of Lake Michigan was extended southward 
to include the Fox and Manitou Islands and Grand and Little Trav- 
erse Bays, and the data were thus obtained for a much-needed chart 
of a dangerous part of the lake passed over by the vessels sailing 
between the Straits of Mackinac and Chicago. Local surveys of a 
few harbors on Lake Superior were made in 1859, and in 1861 the 
general survey of the lake was begun at its western end." Lieutenant- 
Colonel Comstock adds: "The general methods of survey employed 
by Captain Meade were similar to those followed by Captain Macomb. 
The nature of the field operations required a combination of triangu- 
lation and astronomical work for the determination of the positions 
of points on the shores of Lake Huron, and made some change neces- 
sary in the method of executing the off-shore hydrography. Larger 
appropriations permitted a considerable expansion of the scope of 
the survey, the introduction of more accurate methods in obtaining 
longitudes, and the commencement of a series of magnetic, water- 
level, and meteorological observations at many points on the lakes." 
The method of off-shore hydrography adopted, afterward applied 
to all the lakes, consisted in the running around a lake of a belt, of 
about ten miles in width, of sounding-lines about one mile apart, 
beyond and connecting with the terminus of the belt of more minute 
hydrography along the immediate shore. The general configuration 
of the bottom of a lake was determined by running a few lines com- 
pletely across it. 

Captain Meade was no sooner appointed to the charge of the 
lake survey than we find him keenly solicitous to forward the work 



NARRATIVE 211 

upon the lines approved by previous experience, and to increase its 
efficiency, in connection with which one of his earliest moves was 
toward general improvement in methods of topography. In his first 
annual report he asks for $2,750 "for simultaneous meteorological 
and water-level observations to be made over the whole lake region." 
In his fourth annual report, October 20, 1860, he mentions some of 
the results of these observations, collated with those of outside ob- 
servers. They showed the highest range of any lake to be that of 
Lake Michigan, which was 5.5 feet. "There has not yet been time," 
he says, "since the observations of the survey were commenced, for 
any general results to be deduced beyond what are perhaps now well 
known." 

Undoubtedly the most notable suggestion which he made and 
adopted for the survey consisted in a modification of the then exist- 
ing method for the determination of longitudes by the electric tele- 
graph, known as the American method. This method was invented 
by Professor Sears C. Walker. Professor Alexander D. Bache, 
superintendent of the Coast Survey, says in his report for 1853: 
"He (Professor Walker) invented the application of the galvanic 
circuit to the recording of astronomical observation; which, under 
various ingenious modifications, is known as the American method." 

The American method invented by Professor Walker for the de- 
termination of longitude by star-signals, through the medium of the 
electric telegraph, consisted simply in the observation at two stations, 
east and west of each other, of the meridian passage of stars, whose 
time of transit at each station was recorded by the time of the eastern 
clock, thus giving in time, which can be reduced to space, the differ- 
ence between the two stations. Captain Meade's modification was 
a notable one, although too late to be referred to by the superin- 
tendent of the coast survey, seeing that the report quoted was pub- 
lished in 1853, and Captain Meade's modification was not suggested 
until 1858. It redounds all the more to Captain Meade's credit, 
however, that he should have originated any good modification after 
the lapse of so long a time since the discovery of the American method. 
Captain Meade's language relating to what he had accomplished was 
scrupulously guarded. He says, in his report for 1859: "So far as 
my knowledge extends, derived from published reports, it has hitherto 
been the practice to employ in the observatories but one clock at a 
time — that is to say, the eastern clock being connected with the main 
current, and the western clock disconnected from both main and 



212 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

local circuits, the transit of a star over both meridians was recorded 
at each station by the time as shown by the eastern clock only, and 
the difference of the times of transit gave the difference of longitude 
by the eastern clock. To obtain, therefore, a final result (the mean 
of the two) had to be observed at each station." Captain Meade 
proceeds to say, in an explanation which is mainly too technical to 
be introduced here, that, in discussions with Professor C. A. Young, 
of Western Reserve College, Hudson, Ohio, he had suggested the 
convenience of an arrangement, afterward carried out through Pro- 
fessor Young's special skill in electric telegraphy, by which the tran- 
sit of a star over each meridian was recorded on both eastern and 
western clocks. The only objection made to this innovation was 
that the resulting determination of the difference of longitude be- 
tween stations would be affected by any variation that might take 
place in the "pass" of the relay-magnet during the passage of the 
stars between the meridians. " But," he adds, " as the whole amount 
of this pass was found, from careful experiments, not to exceed 0.03 
of a second (three hundredths) its variation in 6.5 minutes (difference 
of longitude, in time) may be considered as an inappreciable quan- 
tity, insensible in comparison with the other errors inseparable from 
all observations with field instruments." Professor Young remarks, 
in his official report to Captain Meade, of April 28, 1859, in regard to 
the modification described: "I believe no other arrangement has 
ever hitherto effected this double-clock record of each observation, 
the desirableness of which yourself first suggested to me." 

In the telegraphic determination of longitude, just described, 
Lieutenant C. N. Turnbull was associated with Professor Young. It 
was under the direction of Captain Meade that Lieutenants Turn- 
bull and Poe did considerable astronomical work, and Lieutenant 
Smith a good deal of magnetic work, for the survey. Also under 
him Lieutenant J. L. Kirby Smith executed primary triangulation, 
while Lieutenant Robert F. Beckham assisted Lieutenant Poe in 
telegraphic and chronometric determination of longitudes of points on 
portions of the Canada lake shore. 

In addition to his superintendence, he personally executed the 
measurement of a primary base, much reconnoissance, planning of 
triangulation, erection of signals, and off-shore hydrography. It is 
needless to go further into details, as enough has been said of Cap- 
tain Meade's work on the lake survey to show the activity of his 
administration. This work is chiefly interesting as forming the last 



NARRATIVE 213 

period of his career before the breaking out of the Rebellion. The 
surveying season on Lake Superior was verging upon its close, and 
the surveying parties had not yet returned, when he was relieved 
from the charge of the survey by Lieutenant James D. Graham, on 
August 31, 1861, and ordered to duty with the armies in the field. 

The period immediately preceding the secession of the Southern 
States found Captain Meade quietly engaged in his duties in charge 
of the lake survey. He had watched with deep anxiety the current 
of events, eagerly scanning the political horizon for some glimmer of 
hope that the dreaded resort to arms might be averted. No poli- 
tician, in the petty sense, he was, in the highest, penetrated with a 
pure love of country, and believed that, if only time could be gained 
for reflection, the sober second thought of the people would end in 
their return to common-sense and reason. In accordance, therefore, 
with his belief in the wisdom of the most conservative course, he had, 
in the presidential election of 1860, cast his vote for Bell and Everett. 

The position at this time of officers of the regular army was an 
exceedingly trying one, especially for those who, like Captain Meade, 
were fully alive to the grave responsibility attaching to them as officers 
of the government, on whose example much depended. The defec- 
tion of those officers who saw fit to cast their lot with the Confederacy 
caused the actions of all to be scrutinized, and often misunderstood, 
in the then excited frame of the public mind. In many instances 
the suspicions aroused at this period by the careful reticence of officers 
who felt the delicacy of their position led to want of due appreciation 
of their services even after they had signalized themselves in the 
war. 

Captain Meade deprecated all violent language, as subordinating 
reason to passion, as productive of no possible good, and certain to 
entail evil. For his own part he calmly awaited the unfolding of 
events, which, if untoward, no action of his should have fostered, 
and to which, if favorable, he should have the satisfaction of know- 
ing that his own temperate speech and counsel had contributed. 

To his mind his own course was clear. He never for a moment 
doubted where his duty led him. In the strongest language of 
reason he denounced the Southern leaders who were goading their 
people into civil war. He expressed himself as deploring the neces- 
sity of using force, but as believing, if the necessity should come, in 
the employment promptly and energetically of the whole power of 
the government to prevent a disruption of the Union. But that 



214 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

necessity had not yet arisen, and so, trying to hope for the best, 
but fearing the worst, he awaited the event, before which he had no 
national active course to take, but which, if it should arrive, was to 
place him face to face with his duty as a patriot, to contribute the 
full measure of his knowledge as a military man to the salvation of 
his country. As to the result of the war, if it should come, he had 
from the first no misgivings, provided the gravity of the occasion 
were realized and the immense resources of the government were 
properly employed. 

He knew well the temper of the people both North and South. 
He knew well the resentment of a considerable party in the North 
at what it deemed the pro-slavery aggression of the South for the 
maintenance of the existing political equilibrium, and of the still 
more intense feeling of the whole South at what it deemed the en- 
croachment of the North upon the rights growing out of the Con- 
stitution. He knew well that political leaders on the one side longed 
to take the opportunity offered to personal ambition by a most 
specious pretext, and that those on the other had appeared to justify 
them by the belief in and proclamation of an irrepressible conflict. 
He knew well the determined, if once aroused, spirit of the North, 
and the equally determined and more fiery spirit of the South, which 
had for a long time been aroused. And, finally, he knew well the 
immense superiority of the North over the South in men and material 
resources, and of the contempt of the South for the North, as a 
people of tradesmen unable to cope with it in war. Knowing all 
this, as he was well aware few could realize it, through long resi- 
dence in both parts of the country and intimate acquaintance with 
prominent men on both sides, he saw how both sides were griev- 
ously mistaken in facts and conclusions; that if an appeal to arms 
were made, the conflict would be terrible ; and he strove to impress 
the solemnity of the crisis upon all with whom he came in contact, 
in the belief that it was his duty to do what in him lay toward 
soothing the exasperated state of public feeling in face of a danger 
which menaced, but which, if averted, might never recur. 

In Detroit, as elsewhere, there was intense political excitement, 
and, as elsewhere, one of its manifestations was distrust of many 
officers of the army and navy, consequent upon the resignation of 
a few officers from the South. The views of such officers as Captain 
Meade were very distasteful to petty politicians and to those thought- 
less people who looked upon the impending conflict as a mere riot, 



NARRATIVE 215 

to be suppressed at the first appearance of United States troops, and 
they were very indignant at any one who attempted to make them 
fully realize the situation. 

Nothing could be a better illustration of the possible injudicious 
action of a people laboring under strong political excitement, than the 
circumstance that, in the midst of the ferment in Detroit, a procla- 
mation for a mass meeting of citizens of Detroit for the framing and 
passage of resolutions, requested the presence of army and navy 
officers stationed there, in order that they might take the oath of 
allegiance to the United States. These officers thereupon met at 
the office of Captain Meade, and with but one exception declined to 
attend the mass meeting. The grounds which they took for their 
refusal were: That it was unbecoming in officers of the government 
to be present at such a meeting, especially for such a purpose; that 
it would be a dangerous precedent for officers to take an oath at the 
demand and in the presence of a crowd, and that the callers of the 
meeting were unjustified in making such a demand. They then 
drew up, signed, and forwarded to the War Department a paper 
expressing their willingness to take the oath of allegiance whenever 
called upon by the War Department. 

The action of these officers in declining to attend caused a great 
deal of violent language in regard to it to be indulged in by some 
people at the mass meeting, which dispersed after the usual patriotic 
speeches and resolutions. Nothing of moment came of the affair, 
although it is believed that the stand taken by the officers was the 
cause, for a time, of suspicion and ill-will toward them among some 
worthy people of that part of the country, who later became satisfied 
of the propriety of their course. 

Soon after the firing on Fort Sumter and the first call of President 
Lincoln for volunteers, Captain Meade made urgent and repeated 
requests to the government for active duty. No attention being 
paid to them, he, late in June, 1861, went to Washington and pro- 
tested against being retained in charge of the lake survey, and ap- 
plied for increased rank in one of the new regiments then being raised. 
He was promised that something should be done for him, but nothing 
came of it, and he returned to Detroit. 

In addition to his duties in charge of the lake survey he had been 
placed in charge of the erection of certain light-houses on Lake 
Superior. All the younger officers associated with him had been 
ordered away and were actively engaged in raising and organizing the 



216 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

large bodies of volunteers in the different States. Thoroughly dis- 
pirited at being retained on civil duty in time of war, at seeing sev- 
eral of his juniors in his own corps already promoted to the rank of 
brigadier-general, the battle of Bull Run fought, new levies of troops 
called for, and at still hearing nothing from Washington, he began 
to fear that his chances for active service were fast passing away. 
In this state of affairs he started early in August for Lake Superior, 
in performance of his duties, and while there received orders to turn 
over those duties to Colonel James D. Graham, one of the oldest 
officers of his corps, and to repair to Washington to take charge of 
the recruiting and organizing of one of the companies of Topographical 
Engineers, lately authorized by Congress. 

The long delay, which had been caused apparently by disinclina- 
tion to confer higher rank upon him, coupled with the avowed ob- 
jection of the department to allowing officers of the staff corps of the 
regular army to accept positions in the volunteer service, had led to 
his determination to resign his position in the regular army, in order 
to accept the colonelcy of one of the regiments of Michigan volun- 
teers, which had been offered to him by Governor Austin Blair of that 
State. He was about leaving Detroit for Washington, in obedience 
to his orders, when, much to his surprise and gratification, he was 
officially notified of his appointment, on August 31, 1861, as brigadier- 
general of volunteers, with orders to report to General McClellan, 
then commanding the forces about Washington. 

Some months previously to this, he had, in anticipation of enter- 
ing upon active service, broken up his house in Detroit and sent his 
family back to their old home in Philadelphia. He therefore lost 
no time in hastening to Washington and reporting to General McClel- 
lan, by whom he was assigned to the division commanded by Major- 
General George A. McCall, known as the Pennsylvania Reserves. 
General McCall, who had not yet fully organized his command, 
allowed General Meade to remain in Washington for a few days, for 
the purpose of perfecting his outfit, which had been neglected in the 
haste of his departure, in his anxiety to reach the field. While thus 
engaged he enjoyed the society of Mrs. Meade and his eldest son, 
John Sergeant Meade, who had joined him in Philadelphia on his 
way through that city from Detroit to Washington, and who remained 
with him until he was notified by General McCall to join the com- 
mand. On his reporting, he was assigned by General McCall to 
the command of the Second Brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves. 



NARRATIVE 217 

The division of General McCall, known as the Pennsylvania Re- 
serves, had been authorized by special act of legislature, passed at 
the instance of Governor Andrew G. Curtin, of Pennsylvania, after 
the quota of that State, under the first call of the President for troops, 
had been filled. They were organized as a "Reserve Corps of the 
Commonwealth," and consisted of thirteen regiments of infantry, 
one of cavalry, one of artillery, and placed under the command of 
Major-General McCall. On the urgent demand of the authorities 
at Washington for reinforcements, after the defeat of the Union 
army at Bull Run, this force had been despatched as rapidly as pos- 
sible to that city, and were mustered into the service of the United 
States as a division which became part of the Army of the Potomac, 
then being organized by Major-General George B. McClellan. 

General Meade, now in the forty-sixth year of his age, was about 
to enter upon a field of labor entirely different from that in which he 
had been engaged for the preceding thirteen years. The pursuits 
which he had so relished were to be laid aside at the call of duty, 
and from the peaceful scenes of his scientific labors, for which he was 
so eminently fitted, he was to betake himself to the stir of camps, to 
arduous marches, and the horrid din of battle. Many were the re- 
grets expressed at this time by those with whom he had come in con- 
tact in the course of those labors, at the loss to science of one who 
had evinced for it such high qualifications. So strong was this feel- 
ing on the part of Professor Henry, the distinguished secretary of the 
Smithsonian Institution, that he endeavored to dissuade General 
Meade from seeking active service. They had been thrown much 
together during the last few years while General Meade was con- 
ducting the lake survey, and Professor Henry had come to regard 
him as one possessed of so great aptitude for that class of work that 
he was unwilling to lose him from the ranks of science, to which he 
was himself so enthusiastically devoted. Professor Henry even went 
so far as to call upon Mrs. Meade, on the occasion of a visit of his to 
Philadelphia, for the express purpose of beseeching her to lend her 
aid to prevent a step which would result in so great a loss to science. 
From his point of view he regarded it as sheer waste for one possessed 
of the scientific qualifications of General Meade to relinquish his 
brilliant future in the field of science, and, as he expressed it, become 
mere food for powder. 

There was now, however, no question of choice. The general 
knew full well where honor and duty lay. His wife, too, would have 



218 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

been the last of all the world to obstruct the path which led to them. 
On the contrary, sad as might be separation and torturing anxiety, 
their consideration could not daunt one who held that the place of 
every brave man was in the field. And so, instead of attempting to 
dissuade her husband, she had done all in her power to procure him 
the rank with which, in recognition of his military talents and ex- 
perience, he could fittingly appear there. The tenderest apprecia- 
tion of her self-abnegation is often expressed in the letters which 
follow, which evince throughout a devotion and the recognition of 
the fullest return, which alone can explain the possibility of one so 
situated as he was through long years of march, battle, defeat, vic- 
tory, pouring out his whole soul through pages, teeming with incidents 
of war, in joy, sorrow, solicitude, thanksgiving, in love and prayer for 
home. As for him, nothing could give a better idea of the sentiments 
by which he was inspired at this momentous period of his country's 
history than the words which he addressed to a friend in a letter 
written only a few days before he took the field. "I cordially agree 
with you," he said, "in earnest prayers that a merciful Providence 
would so guide the hearts of the rulers on both sides as to terminate 
this unnatural contest. But, as for myself, I have ever held it to 
be my duty to uphold and maintain the Constitution and resist the 
disruption of this Government. With this opinion, I hold the other 
side responsible for the existing condition of affairs. Besides, as a 
soldier, holding a commission, it has always been my judgment that 
duty required I should disregard all political questions, and obey 
orders. I go into the field with these principles, trusting to God to 
dispose of my life and actions in accordance with my daily prayer, 
that His will and not mine should be done." 

To these letters is at this point substantially committed the task 
of exhibiting the career of General Meade during the next four years. 
They can appear meagre only by comparison with the naturally 
ardent desire of all to know much more than they or any other one 
work on the subject, however voluminous, can tell; for they are 
replete with information from one whose mental poise was never dis- 
turbed, however hurried and exciting the events around him, and 
faithfully and unremittingly trace, as far as circumstances and the 
nature of private letters will allow, the fortunes of the Army of the 
Potomac from its march from the defences of Washington to the 
surrender of Lee's army at Appomattox Court House. 



PART IV 

CIVIL WAR LETTERS 

1861-1865 

To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

In Camp, September 22, 1861. 

I hope you will not be very much put out at not receiving a letter 
earlier from me, but I have really been very much occupied, and yes- 
terday, in addition to other duties, we had a grand division review 
for the Prince de Joinville 1 and others. I was so sorry you and 
Sergeant 2 had gone. The review passed off very well, pretty much 
the same as you saw, except that, having been advised of the arrival 
of the distinguished strangers only the night before, Gauttier did not 
have the privilege of sticking McCall for a fine collation. McClellan, 
however, took the Frenchmen over to the Chain Bridge and by Ball's 
Cross-Roads. 

I felt very sad when you drove off, and could hardly shake off 
the idea that I was looking on you perhaps for the last time — at 
any rate, for a long while; but I trust matters will be more favorable 
to us, and that it will please a just and merciful Providence to per- 
mit us to be happy once more, united, and free from immediate 
trouble. There has been nothing new since you left. We have 
daily the usual announcement that the enemy have been seen some- 
where above us, on the opposite side; but they confine their opera- 
tions to letting us see them. What they are going to do, no one 
without the gift of second sight can possibly imagine. In the mean- 
time we are becoming better prepared to meet them, and after awhile 
if they don't show themselves, I presume we shall have to hunt them 
up. I find camp life agrees very well with me, and the active duties 
I have entered on are quite agreeable. Sometimes I have a little 
sinking at the heart, when I reflect that perhaps I may fail at the 
grand scratch; but I try to console myself with the belief that I shall 

1 Third son of Louis Philippe, King of the French 1830-1848. 

2 Son of General Meade. 

219 



220 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

probably do as well as most of my neighbors, and that your firm 
faith must be founded on some reasonable groundwork. 

William Palmer brought Kuhn 1 out to see me, who presented 
letters from Harrison Smith 2 and Henry Fisher, asking me to assist 
him in procuring a staff appointment. He said he supposed my staff 
was full, but would be glad to serve on it as a volunteer, as pay was 
no object to him, but simply a position and a chance to see service. 
While I was talking to him I received Charley Cadwalader's letter. 
I then told him C.'s declination made a vacancy, but I did not know 
whether I could appoint a civilian, not commissioned in the volun- 
teers; that McClellan, McCall and myself were trying to have young 
Watmough 3 appointed in this manner, which if we succeeded in would 
be a precedent. He expressed himself greatly pleased, and said he 
would await the result in Washington. 

Headquarters Second Brigade, McCall's Division, 

Tenallytown, September 24, 1861. 

Nothing of importance has transpired since I last wrote to you. 
I am getting pretty familiar with my duties, which thus far have been 
principally paper work. You would be astonished to see the amount 
of writing and papering required of a general in the field. A good 
deal of it is regular circumlocution, or " How not to do it." Never- 
theless, being regulations, one has to comply with the requirements, 
however foolish they may seem. Our mess is very comfortable. 
Dr. Stocker is caterer, and I have a young man from one of the regi- 
ments acting as my adjutant general, till the arrival of Captain 
Baird. Captain Ringwalt, a Chester County farmer, has been as- 
signed to me as quartermaster. He is said to be a most respectable 
and wealthy farmer of Chester County. 

Tenallytown, September 26, 1861. 
Yesterday, Baldy Smith 4 made one of his reconnoissances, and 
our division was held in readiness all day to move at a moment's 
notice to support him, in case of emergency. He returned, however, 

1 James Hamilton Kuhn, of Philadelphia, afterward A. D. C. to General 
Meade and killed at the Seven Days' Battle, June 30, 1862. 

2 Brother-in-law of Mrs. Meade. 

3 William Watmough, cousin of Mrs. Meade, afterward A. D. C. to General 
Meade. 

4 Brigadier-General William F. Smith, commanding a division, and an old 
Detroit friend of the Meade family. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 221 

without encountering any force of consequence, though we could see 
him from my tent firing his artillery at small bodies hovering around 
him. To-day being the day set apart by the President for fasting, 
humiliation and prayer, all duties were suspended and the day ob- 
served as Sunday. I have a letter from Willie, 1 written in good spirits, 
and saying he expects to take the field in a few weeks, with the First 
Battalion of his regiment. 

Tenallytown, September 30, 1861 — 3 p. m. 

We have been under arms all day, and once started for up river, 
believing the enemy were crossing some fifteen miles above us. The 
report proved erroneous, but we keep all ready to move at a moment's 
notice. They have retired from our front on the other side of the 
river, and are showing themselves above and below. We cannot 
tell what they are about, but I believe we are ready for them, let 
them come in what direction they choose. 

Tenallytown, October 6, 1861. 

I have not written you since the few lines the day we expected 
to have a fight. The stampede lasted for thirty-six hours. I believe 
it is now generally known that McClellan had planned a surprise, 
which, if he had succeeded in, would have brought on a big fight, in 
which our division was to have a part; but the sudden disappearance 
of the enemy frustrated the plan. There is no doubt they were ap- 
prised of it, though McClellan asserts he did not tell even the generals 
who were to share in it till the very moment of action, and that he is 
now convinced it is impossible to do or attempt anything without 
their knowing it. At present all is quiet, the enemy having retired 
to his old lines about Manassas. His threatening Washington was 
a bravado, hoping to draw McClellan out. Failing in this, he has 
fallen back, thinking we would rush after him, and thus give them a 
chance to get us at a disadvantage. They are, as Woodbury said, 
great on strategy, but 1 guess they will find after awhile that our 
movements are not to be governed by theirs, and that McClellan 
is not going to move until he is ready, and then not in the direction 
they want him. 

Macomb has been made a lieutenant colonel, as chief Topo- 
graphical Engineer of McClellan's staff — the least they could do for 
him, as all the rest of the chiefs have been made generals and colonels. 

1 William Sergeant, brother of Mrs. Meade, captain 12th U. S. Inf. Afterward 
wounded at Gravelly Run, Va., March 29, 1865. Died April 11, 1865. 



222 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

To John Sergeant Meade : * 

Camp Pierpont, Va., October 12, 1861. 

I was glad to hear you had enjoyed your trip to West Point. I 
was sure you would be delighted with the scenery, which is said of 
its kind to be unequaled. I agree with you that the student at West 
Point has every advantage in his favor in the regularity of the hours 
there and the absence of distraction. Still, you must remember, a 
great deal more is required of them than at any of our colleges, and 
that without a mathematical turn of mind, which is a decided gift of 
nature, no advantages such as above mentioned will enable a student 
to overcome all the difficulties in his path, though, undoubtedly, 
they render his task easier than it otherwise would be. Day before 
yesterday we were moved across the Potomac, and are now in posi- 
tion some four miles in advance of where you saw John Markoe, 2 
being just beyond Langley, where Baldy Smith had his skirmish. 

Hamilton Kuhn did get a commission from the Governor of 
Pennsylvania, but it was not the right kind. He has been again to 
Harrisburg and procured another, and is now in Washington, quali- 
fying himself, so that I expect him to join me every day. He ap- 
pears a very gentlemanly fellow, and is so anxious to see service, that 
I doubt not I shall find him very useful. 



To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Camp Pierpont, Va., October 12, 1861—9 p. m. 
The enemy have appeared in our vicinity, and we have as much 
reason to believe they are going to attack us as we ever can have 
with an enemy as alert as they are and whose movements are wrapped 
in such mystery. Perhaps their movements to-day are like many 
preceding ones, only feints, either to harass us or draw us out. If 
they ever are going to attack us, now is their time, as General McClel- 
lan has advanced some miles beyond his line of entrenchments and 
is on comparatively new ground, where every day will enable him to 
make himself stronger and their probability of success less. My own 
opinion has hitherto been that they would act on the defensive and 
await our attack, but the movement of McClellan has possibly 
caused a change in their tactics, and they may have made up their 
minds to accept his offer of battle and try their chances at the offen- 

1 Son of General Meade. 2 John Markoe, captain 71st Regt. Pa. Vols. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 223 

sive. For my part, I hope it is so. We have a strong position, in 
its natural character; we are near our reserves in Washington, and 
we have strong lines to fall back upon in case we cannot hold our 
present advanced lines. In other words, the advantages are as great 
on our side as we can ever expect to have them. The whole ques- 
tion turns upon the behavior of our men. If they stand up to their 
work like men, and really fight with a determination to do or die, I 
think there is no doubt of our triumphant success. Of course, if 
they cannot be brought to this point, all plans and calculations must 
fail. You will doubtless be anxious to know what is my private 
opinion of our force, and I would not hesitate to tell you if I had a 
decided opinion. Much, as I have always told you, will depend on 
the turn events take. If we are successful in the beginning in re- 
pelling the attack, I think they can be kept up to the work; but if 
by any accident the fortune is against us in the commencement, I 
fear they will become demoralized. They do not any of them, 
officers or men, seem to have the least idea of the solemn duty they 
have imposed upon themselves in becoming soldiers. Soldiers they 
are not in any sense of the word. Brave men they may be, and I 
trust in God will prove themselves; but at this very moment, when 
we have every reason to believe by to-morrow's dawn our lives may 
be imperiled, if not taken from us, I doubt if any of the numerous 
living beings around me realize in the slightest degree what they 
may have to meet. For myself, I await calmly the decree of an 
over-ruling Providence. I am here from a sense of duty, because I 
could not with honor be away, and whatever befalls me, those of my 
blood who survive me can say, I trust, that I did my duty. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., October 14, 1861. 

We see their pickets and lookouts on all prominent points in 
front of us, and this afternoon towards sunset they opened a battery 
on our left (I mean by ours, McCall's Division). I saw the flash of 
the guns, but could not see where the shot fell, or at what part of 
our line they were firing. I think we are on the eve of important 
events, and that it will not be long before we have a struggle. For 
my part, I do not desire it postponed, and was quite disappointed 
they did not attack us. 

The country is becoming impatient at the apparent inactivity 
of our troops, and I have no doubt, if the enemy afford McClellan 
any chance which he deems favorable, he will attack them. 



224 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

I went over to-day to see our friend W. F. Smith, commanding 
the division next to us. Madame was there, and I went over by in- 
vitation to luncheon and to see her. She asked where you were, 
and I said in Philadelphia, at which she expressed a little surprise, 
when I told her you had a brigade of infantry that required as much 
talent to command and as close attention to duties as our brigades. 
I heard Miss Anne Biddle was in camp the other day, visiting Colonel 
Charles J. 1 By-the-by, I don't remember having told you that 
Charley's regiment (the Bucktails, as they are called, from having 
this appendage in their caps) was in my brigade for a week, and when 
taken from me, expressed, Colonel and all, the greatest regret, for 
in that short time we had become most excellent friends. I met 
to-day Lieutenant Colonel Penrose, 2 who said he was the son of the 
former Solicitor of the Treasury, and a brother of Dr. Penrose. 
This makes the third of your connections in my brigade. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., October 18, 1861. 
I had just seated myself to write you a nice long letter, when 
orders came to march to-morrow, requiring me to stir about and give 
the requisite directions. The enemy, it is understood, have fallen 
back to their old lines at Bull Run. They have had a force above 
us at Leesburg, which it is believed they are withdrawing. The object 
of our expedition is to advance some twelve or fifteen miles to the 
front, to reconnoitre the country, and also with the hope of cutting 
off some of their troops coming down from Leesburg. We go with 
the whole division, some twelve thousand strong, with three bat- 
teries of artillery, and if we encounter any of their troops, will have 
a very pretty chance for a nice little fight of our own. It is very 
late, and I have to be in the saddle very early. I am quite well. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., October 21, 1861—9 p. m. 
We returned this evening from our expedition, which, so far as 
my brigade was concerned, was very peaceful. The First Brigade, 
under Reynolds, 3 advanced some fifteen miles, and encountered the 
enemy's pickets, one of whom was killed; nobody hurt on our side. 
I advanced some ten miles and saw nothing of them. We remained 

1 Charles J. Biddle, colonel 42d Regt. Pa. Vols. 
2 Wm. M. Penrose, lieutenant-colonel 35th Regt. Pa. Vols. 
3 John F. Reynolds, afterward commanding the left wing of the Army of the 
Potomac, killed at the battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 225 

out three days, getting an accurate knowledge of the country, and 
then returned to this camp. No sooner are we back than orders come 
to be ready at a moment's notice to go again, and all is now excite- 
ment and bustle, though it is night-time. I do not know the meaning, 
except that something is being done on some other part of the line 
and we are wanted to support the movement. 

Camp Pierpont, [Va.], October 24, 1861 — 5 a. m. 
I have only time to write you a few lines, to say that late last 
night orders came to start early this morning. The direction of our 
march is not known, but I suppose it to be in co-operation with 
Banks and Stone, on the river above us. 1 Indeed, the general im- 
pression among outsiders is that we ought not to have been withdrawn 
from Dranesville, as at that place we were within ten miles of the 
force that attacked Stone. For myself, I ask no questions and 
don't speculate. I know how impossible it is for outsiders to under- 
stand everything. Therefore all I can now say is, that we march. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., October 24, 1861. 
After waiting all day in momentary expectation of orders to ad- 
vance, we were informed this evening that the movement was post- 
poned. I am of course in ignorance of what was in contemplation, 
but presume our movement had reference to what has taken place 
on the river above us. You are doubtless apprised of the disastrous 
affair that has occurred there with part of Stone's and Banks's com- 
mands. As far as I can gather, an unauthorized scouting party 
reported a small body of the enemy, when an attempt was made to 
capture them, which resulted in our people, eighteen hundred strong, 
being driven back into the river, where many lives were sacrificed 
and prisoners taken. The whole affair was a bungle from the be- 
ginning. First, in the officer's sending out a scouting party without 
authority; second, in not reinforcing him when it was found the enemy 
were in force. The worst part of the business is that at the very 
time our people were contending against such odds, the advance of 
McCall's Division was only ten miles off, and had we been ordered 
forward, instead of back, we could have captured the whole of them. 
Of course, we were in ignorance of what was going on, and I presume 

Engagement at Ball's Bluff, Va., October 21, 1861. Federal loss, killed, 
wounded, and missing, 921 (O. R.). 



226 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

McClellan was not fully advised of what was taking place, or he 
would have undoubtedly sent us on. I suppose they concealed 
from him the true state of the case, and made such reports that in- 
duced him to believe all was going well. Such contre-temps are very 
demoralizing, and particularly unfortunate at this juncture, when 
we are meeting with so many reverses on a small scale. 

I should like to know what John Markoe says of the affair at 
Edwards' * and Conrad's Ferry. 1 I was glad to see his name was not 
among the casualties. Baker 2 was colonel of the regiment he was 
attached to. Wistar, 3 the lieutenant colonel, is said to be mortally 
wounded. It is reported that out of the eighteen hundred who 
crossed the river, only three hundred got back, the balance being 
either killed, drowned, or prisoners. The weather has been very 
disagreeable, first raining hard day and night, and now very cold, 
with high northwest winds. The men in consequence suffer a great 
deal, particularly on the march, when we go without tents or shelter 
of any kind. 

4 Camp Pierpont, Va., November 7, 1861. 

I ought to have written to you before, but I have been very busy, 
having been put on a court-martial as president, and it being the first 
time in my military service of thirty years that I ever had anything 
whatever to do with a court, I have to spend much time in booking 
myself up. 

McCall showed me to-day a very severe letter from McClellan, 
commenting on the state of discipline of his division. I think the 
report of the officers who inspected us unfair and illiberal. Whilst 
I am aware our discipline is much below what it ought to be, yet I 
deny the assertion that we are worse than the rest of the army. 
McCall was very much mortified, and I am afraid McClellan has been 
prejudiced against him by the talking of others. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., November 12, 1861. 
This afternoon, while at dinner, I was greatly surprised and de- 
lighted at seeing a carriage drive up with Captain and Mrs. Scott. 
He said he was in Washington before a Court of Inquiry; that he had 
not the slightest fear of the result, having conscientiously performed 

1 Engagement at Ball's Bluff, Va., October 21, 1861. 

2 Edward D. Baker, colonel 71st Regt. Pa. Vols. 

3 Isaac J. Wistar, lieutenant-colonel 71st Regt. Pa. Vols. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 227 

his duty. He explained the cause of complaint, which was his not hav- 
ing reported to the Gulf Squadron; which he could not do, having 
captured a vessel that he had evidence would not have been con- 
demned at Key West, though a legal capture. I hope his expecta- 
tions will be realized, and that no harm will come to him. They 
had driven out to see Baldy Smith and myself. After spending a 
little while in my tent, I rode part of the way back with them. To- 
day we have the cheering news from the Naval Expedition; 1 du Pont 2 
has covered himself with glory. The whole affair was most skillfully 
executed, and reflects great credit on the navy. It has inspirited all 
of us, and the talk is now, When are we going to do something? I 
should not be surprised if a movement was made in a very few days. 
For my part I hope so. 



To John Sergeant Meade: 

Camp Pierpont, Va., November 14, 1861. 

I am very badly off for horses. The horse 3 1 first got has been an 
excellent horse in his day, but General Hunter broke him down at 
Bull Run. 4 The other one has rheumatism in his legs, and has be- 
come pretty much unserviceable. This has always been my luck 
with horses; I am never fortunate with them. I should like much 
to have a really fine horse, but it costs so much I must try to get 
along with my old hacks. 

I am very well satisfied with all my staff, and believe I have as 
nice a set of gentlemen as any brigadier in the field. Both Kuhn and 
Watmough are particularly clever fellows, and Captain Baird is a 
very nice fellow, too. We all get along most harmoniously and only 
want a little more to do. You have of course rejoiced over the glori- 
ous achievement of our navy at Port Royal. 

1 Battle of Port Royal, S. C, November 7, 1861. 

2 Captain Samuel F. Du Pont, U. S. N., in command of the South Atlantic 
Blockading Squadron. 

3 " Baldy," remained with General Meade in the field until the spring of 1864. 
He was wounded twice at the first battle of Bull Run under General Hunter, and 
under General Meade he was wounded in the flank at the second battle of Bull 
Run, shot through the neck at Antietam, wounded at Fredericksburg, and again 
at Gettysburg, the ball remaining in his body. In the spring of 1864, General 
Meade, fearing that he might become an embarrassment in the campaign which 
was about to commence, sent him to Philadelphia, where he outlived his 
master. 

4 First battle of Bull Run, Va., July 21, 1861. 



228 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

To Mrs. George G. Meade : 

Camp Pierpont, Va., November 17, 1861. 

I went into town yesterday to attend to my Lake Survey accounts 
at the Treasury, which I believe are now all explained satisfactorily, 
so that should anything happen to me, you will remember that my 
public accounts are all settled, and that my vouchers, etc., are in a 
tin box in Major Woodruff's office, Topographical Bureau. 

People who think the war is about to close, because we have 
achieved one signal success, are very short-sighted. I agree with 
you in thinking it has only just begun. Think of Percy Drayton 1 
firing into a fort commanded by his own brother! 2 Is not this enough 
to make one heartsick? We hear the news of the capture of Messrs. 
Mason and Slidell. 3 I hope their being taken out of a British mail 
packet will not bring us into trouble with John Bull. If it is true 
that he is disposed to quarrel with us, this gives him a very pretty 
chance to begin. 

November 17 — 9 p. m. 

The foregoing part of my letter was written this A. m. General 
Brooks dined with us, we having a nice green goose for dinner. 
General McCall paid me a visit during the afternoon, but had no 
news to communicate. Every one is speculating, but no one knows 
what is going to be done; all we can do is to wait patiently. 

I am very much pleased with Hamilton Kuhn. He is a gentle- 
man and intelligent, and it is quite refreshing to have him for an 
associate. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., November 21, 1861. 

I intended to have written to you last evening, but came back 
so tired from the grand review that I went right to bed. I have no 
doubt the papers will give you a glowing description of this event, so 
long talked about. For my part, all I can say is that I got up at 
half-past 3 a. m., the morning very cold, with a heavy frost lying on 
the ground. At 6 o'clock we moved and marched nine miles to the 
ground, at Bailey's Cross-Roads, where we arrived about 10 o'clock, 

1 Percival Drayton commanded the Pocahontas in the Port Royal, S. C, ex- 
pedition November 7, 1861. 

2 Thomas F. Drayton, brigadier-general C. S. A. Led the Confederate troops 
in the Port Royal expedition. 

3 Commissioners from the Confederate States Government sent to Great Brit- 
ain and France, and captured by the United States Government on the British 
steamer Trent, November 8, 1862. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 229 

and were posted in a field where the mud was six inches deep, and 
where we stood for four hours, after which we marched past General 
McClellan, and then home, where we arrived, tired, hungry and dis- 
gusted, at about 7 p. m. The day was cloudy, cold and raw, and alto- 
gether the affair as a " spectacle " was a failure. I understand the 
object of the movement was to show the soldiers what a large and 
well disciplined army had been collected together, and thus give 
them confidence in themselves. I fear standing in the mud for four 
hours and marching nine miles there and back took away greatly 
from the intended effect. My own brigade did very well going to 
the review and on the ground, but returning I found it utterly im- 
possible to keep the men in the ranks. I used all my influence with 
the officers first, and afterwards with the men, but ineffectually, and 
at last abandoned it in disgust, one regiment being by the time it 
reached camp pretty much all broken up and scattered. I felt an- 
noyed when I got back, and wearied at the fruitless efforts I had made. 
There was a notion that the Grand Review was to be converted into 
a fight by making a dash at Centreville, ten miles distant from the 
ground, but, instead of this, the enemy made a dash at us, driving 
in our pickets on several parts of the line and killing several of them. 
They also kept up a practicing with their heavy guns all the after- 
noon, as if in defiance of our parade. General Smith required his 
division to cheer McClellan. He passed our division front, but, not 
being posted in the programme, we were silent. 

The foregoing part of this letter was written in the court room, 
where a poor devil was being tried for sleeping on his post. 

As to horses, I did the best I could. The truth is, the exposure 
is so great, it is almost impossible to keep a horse in good health. 
Several of the officers of my staff have suffered in the same way. I 
have no doubt you can get me a good horse for two hundred and ^hy 
dollars. I can do that here; but where are the two hundred and 
fifty dollars to come from? Remember, I have paid now two hun- 
dred and seventy-five dollars already. 



To John Sergeant Meade: 

Camp Pierpont, Va., November 22, 1861. 

I received yesterday your letter of the 17th, with its enclosure, 
the "Loves of Harlequin and Columbine," which I read with much 
pleasure. The papers, I presume, have given you glowing accounts 



230 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

of the Grand Review. I should have been delighted for you to have 
seen it, as I expect, to an outsider, who could go where he pleased 
and take in all the views, the sight must have been very grand, par- 
ticularly when the troops began to march past the reviewing officer. 
You will see from my account to your mother that we who took part 
in it, like the frogs in the fable, had but little appreciation of the fun 
we were affording others. 

I got a letter to-day from old Potter. He is quartermaster in 
Chicago, up to his eyes in business, spending, he says, sometimes 
over a hundred thousand dollars a day. He begs to be remembered 
to your mother and yourself, and says that Detroit is no longer the 
same place, and that he never expects to have such nice times again 
as he had on the survey under me. Altogether, his letter exhibits 
quite a gratifying amount of feeling. 



To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Camp Pierpont, Va., November 24, 1861. 

There is but little new here. My duties at the court occupy me 
nearly all day, and in the afternoon, towards evening, I take a ride 
through the guards to see that they are on the alert and vigilant. 
The enemy do not show themselves nearer than eight miles, where 
they have their pickets. Now and then they make a dash at some 
part of the line with their cavalry, and drive ours in, killing and 
wounding a few, when they retire again to their old lines. 

In to-day's papers we have Jeff Davis's 1 report to the Confederate 
Congress. A careful perusal of it leads me to think it is more despond- 
ing and not so braggadocio a document as those we have hitherto had 
from him. I have no doubt the blockade and the heavy expenditures 
required to maintain their large armies are telling on them, and that 
sensible people among them are beginning to say, cui bono t and where 
is this to end? If such should be the case, it proves the sagacity of 
our policy in keeping them hemmed in by land and sea, and forcing 
them to raise large forces by threatening them at many different 
points. You know I have always told you this would be a war of 
dollars and cents — that is, of resources — and that if the North man- 
aged properly, the South ought to be first exhausted and first to feel 
the ruinous effects of war. In other words, to use my familiar ex- 
pression, it was and is a Kilkenny-cat business, in which the North, 

1 Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 231 

being the biggest cat and having the largest tail, ought to have the 
endurance to maintain the contest after the Southern gentleman 
was all gone. In the meantime, we at the North should continue the 
good work of setting aside such men as Fremont 1 and upholding 
such sentiments as those of Sherman, who declares the private prop- 
erty of Secessionists must be respected. Let the ultras on both sides 
be repudiated, and the masses of conservative and moderate men may 
compromise and settle the difficulty. 

To-day has been raw and disagreeable; this afternoon we had a 
slight spit of snow. Camping out in such weather is very hard 
upon the men, and the health of the army is being seriously im- 
paired. 

I fear no amount of personal energy or efforts to do what is right 
will ever make these volunteers into soldiers. The radical error is 
in their organization and the election of officers, in most cases more 
ignorant than the men. It is most unsatisfactory and trying to find 
all your efforts unsuccessful, and the consciousness of knowing that 
matters grow daily worse instead of better is very hard to bear. 
The men are good material, and with good officers might readily be 
moulded into soldiers; but the officers, as a rule, with but very few 
exceptions, are ignorant, inefficient and worthless. They have not 
control or command over the men, and if they had, they do not 
know what to do with them. We have been weeding out some of 
the worst, but owing to the vicious system of electing successors 
which prevails, those who take their places are no better. I ought 
not perhaps to write this to you, and you must understand it is all 
in confidence, but you have asked me to tell you everything freely 
and without disguise, and I have complied with your request. 

I had a visit to-day from Mr. Henry, of the Topographical 
Bureau, who says he saw the review on Wednesday and thought our 
division looked and marched the best of all. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., November 26, 1861. 
The weather continues quite cold. We had a slight fall of snow, 
and every night a heavy frost. No indications that I can see of a 
movement, and every one is beginning to be tired of inactivity, and 
to wonder when something will be done. The court martial still 
continues to occupy my time from 9 to 3 o'clock each day, but I 
hope to get through with it now in a day or two. 

1 Major-General John Charles Fremont, U. S. A. 



232 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Charley Biddle has left his regiment and gone to Philadelphia, 
preparatory to taking his seat in Congress. He is really a great loss 
to this division. The command of his regiment devolves upon 
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas L. Kane. 

Did you see Colonel Willcox was among those selected to be put 
to death, in case our Government hung any of the privateersmen 
condemned? I have no doubt they will carry out their threat and 
hang man for man, if we persist in the folly of denying them rights 
which we have always claimed for ourselves. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., November 28, 1861. 

If you remember what I told you before I came here, you will 
recollect that I always said McClellan had to be tried. That while 
he had shown in other positions talents and a mental organization 
leading to the belief that he was one who would make himself equal 
to the position, yet that fact had yet to be established. I fear he 
allows himself to be too much biased by personal influences and old 
associations. He has already in my judgment committed two grave 
errors. First, in whitewashing Stone, who was and is responsible 
for the Ball's Bluff disaster, greater in my judgment than Bull Run, 
inasmuch as it was clearly the result of bad generalship. Secondly, 
in permitting himself to be biased by tittle-tattle about McCall, 
and visiting his censure of that officer on the whole division under his 
command. Both these instances show a want of moral courage, 
without which no man can be a great commander. 

We had a little excitement yesterday, in a scout from our division 
by our cavalry. They went some fourteen miles in front, capturing 
one of the enemy's pickets, and on their return were fired into by a 
party, whom they repulsed, killing several and bringing in eleven 
prisoners. Colonel Bayard (a young man you may remember at 
the first review, from the protuberance on his cheek, produced by an 
arrow wound), the commander, behaved with conspicuous gallantry. 
One of the prisoners confessed he took deliberate aim at him. He 
had two balls through his clothes and his horse killed under him. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 2, 186 1. 

The most important piece of intelligence I have to communicate 

is that I have bought another horse. He is a fine black horse that 

was brought out to camp by a trader, for sale. I bought him on the 

advice and judgment of several friends who pretend a knowledge in 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 233 

horse flesh, of which I am entirely ignorant. I exchanged Sargie's 1 
horse and gave a hundred and twenty-five dollars boot. As Sargie's 
horse cost me a hundred and twenty-five dollars, it makes my black 
turn me out two hundred and fifty dollars, a very high price. But 
Sargie's horse was entirely broken down and worthless from exposure, 
and was pretty much a dead loss to me. I hope my black will turn 
out well. Thus far he is very satisfactory, being full of spirit and 
quite handsome; but there is no telling when you get a horse from 
a regular trader what a few days of possession may bring forth. 
Everything now looks as if * * * news was correct, that we were 
not to advance from our present position, but look to Southern ex- 
peditions for action on the enemy. We are not positively informed 
that we are in winter quarters, but the men are allowed to make them- 
selves as comfortable as they can. I cannot say I am pleased with 
this — to remain inactive for four months. 

The poor doctor who was wounded in the cavalry skirmish the 
other day has since died. He was only twenty-six years old, and 
leaves a young wife, who reached here three hours after his death. 
Such afflictions should reconcile us to our lesser troubles. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 5, 1861. 

Yesterday morning General McCall invited me to ride into town 
with him, he knowing I wished to go in to draw my pay and attend 
to other business. The day before we had gone towards Dranesville 
on a foraging expedition, Reynolds's brigade and mine, Reynolds in 
front. We collected some fifty wagons of forage, but saw and heard 
nothing of the enemy. On getting into town I paid the Turnbulls 
and Tom Lee a visit. I found at the former place Master Charley, 
who had just arrived with despatches for McClellan from General 
Butler. The expedition they are organizing is to rendezvous at Ship 
Island, near New Orleans, and I have no doubt looks to that impor- 
tant place. 

This morning I attended to my business, and after dining, rode 
out to camp. Here I find orders from McCall for another expedi- 
tion towards Dranesville to-morrow, I believe for foraging purposes, 
though he does not state. I am, however, to have the command and to 
be in front this time, and should not object to having a little brush 
with the enemy, if there are any about the neighborhood where we 
are going. 

1 Son of General Meade. 



234 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

I am very much pleased with my new horse, all except the price, 
which is pretty digging. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., Sunday, December 8, 1861. 
My last letter was written on Thursday evening. The next day 
I went, in command of my brigade, on a foraging expedition. We 
proceeded some ten miles from here, and within two of Dranesville, 
to the farm of a man named Gunnell, who was reported not only as 
an active Secessionist, but one who was making arrangements to 
place his crops in the possession of the Confederate Army. We ar- 
rived on the ground about 12 m., and in two hours loaded some sixty 
wagons, stripping his place of everything we thought would be use- 
ful to the enemy or that we could use ourselves. I never had a more 
disagreeable duty in my life to perform. The man was absent, but 
his sister, with his farm and house servants, were at home. The great 
difficulty was to prevent the wanton and useless destruction of prop- 
erty which could not be made available for military purposes. The 
men and officers got into their heads that the object of the expedi- 
tion was the punishment of a rebel, and hence the more injury they 
inflicted, the more successful was the expedition, and it was with 
considerable trouble they could be prevented from burning every- 
thing. It made me sad to do such injury, and I really was ashamed 
of our cause, which thus required war to be made on individuals. 
The enemy were within ten miles of us, but did not make their ap- 
pearance, and we returned to camp with our booty by nightfall. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 9, 1861. 
Most persons here pooh-pooh the news from England, but I 
think it very serious, as it confirms my apprehension that England 
would feel herself compelled to intervene in our domestic troubles, 
and would seize the first plausible pretext for doing so. There is 
no earthly doubt but that we were justified by the laws of nations 
in arresting Mason and Slidell. It is, however, a question whether 
it was done in the right mode, and whether Wilkes ought not to have 
captured the vessel and carried it into port, where an admiralty 
judge could have settled the legal points involved, and have ordered 
the release of the prisoners, in case their arrest was contrary to na- 
tional law. This I understand is the point England now makes, viz. : 
that no naval officer is empowered to decide on the spot questions 
of international law — which can only be settled by admiralty courts. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 235 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 11, 1861. 

I went into town last evening to the wedding of Captain Griffin 
with Miss Carroll. I had another object in view, which was to avail 
myself of a capital opportunity of seeing in one place and at one time 
numerous friends. Kuhn and myself left camp about 5 o'clock, 
getting in about half-past 6. Kuhn found some nice rooms where 
his connections, the young Adamses, were staying, and where the 
landlady was gracious enough to admit us for the night. After tea 
and a stroll to Willards', we returned and beautified ourselves, and 
at 9 precisely repaired to the Carrolls'. Of course there was an im- 
mense jam; of course the bride and groom looked splendid, as did 
the fourteen bridemaids and groomsmen, the latter all handsome 
young officers in full uniform. Mr., Mrs. and the Miss C's were very 
civil to your humble servant. I saw McClellan and had the honor 
of making way for him to approach the bride. I saw Mrs. Lincoln, 
Lord Lyons, Governor Chase, Mr. Seward, and lots of other celeb- 
rities. All my old Washington friends greeted me with great cor- 
diality, and any amount of rooms and plates at table were offered to 
me when I should come into town, and all the ladies referred to your 
visit and their regret that you were gone before they could get to 
see you. There was the usual amount of flirtations carried on by 
the old stagers, assisted by numerous younger fry. I had a very 
agreeable evening; they had a magnificent supper, and at midnight 
Kuhn and I returned to our quarters. 

This morning, having seen Master Charley Turnbull at the wed- 
ding (he not having yet received his return despatches), I went at 
half-past 8 o'clock to his house and breakfasted with them. Just 
as we had finished breakfast, and I was thinking of going to the 
Bureau to write you a few lines, a telegram was put into my hands, 
announcing the reported approach of the enemy. I hurried to the 
stable, got my horse, and in thirty minutes by my watch was here 
in camp, to find, as I expected, that it was a stampede. 

There is a story, brought in by one of their deserters, a negro, 
that on last Friday, the day I was out on a foraging expedition, we 
approached so near an advanced command they had, consisting of a 
brigade of infantry and a battery, that they thought they were 
going to be attacked, and retreated in such a hurry that they aban- 
doned their artillery, and did not return for it all the next day. Un- 
fortunately, we were in ignorance of their presence, or of their stam- 
pede, or we might have had a glorious and bloodless capture. The 



236 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Southern papers have recently been vehemently urging an advance 
of their army in order to stop our expeditions by sea, and we know 
Jeff. Davis was at Centre ville (where they are said to have sixty 
thousand men) last Friday. As he has adhered to the defensive 
policy, in opposition to his generals, it is not impossible he may have 
yielded, and determined to advance and give us battle. This may 
account for their movement last night and this morning. I think 
if they come out of their ratholes about Bull Run and give us a fair 
chance half-way, that McClellan will eagerly seize it, and the ques- 
tion may be settled by one grand battle. Were it not that I am 
determined to take things as they come and have no wishes, I would 
say, so let it be. The sooner this thing is settled the better, and it 
can only be settled by one side or the other gaining a most decisive 
and complete victory. I think, if we have a fair, open ^ght, our 
chances are good for a victory. But all battles are more or less the 
result of accidents, and no one can tell in advance what will be the 
result. We have been in readiness to move all day, but as nothing 
further has occurred, I suppose an immediate action for the present 
is postponed. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 12, 1861. 
We have nothing new in the army. Congress and its doings I 
suppose you see in the papers. It appears Cameron 1 has come out 
on the Abolition side, but honest old Abe 2 made him suppress the 
principal part of his report. I see Congress refused to pass a vote 
of censure on General Halleck 3 for his order about slaves, which in- 
dicates the ultras are not yet to have it all their own way. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 21, 1861. 
It has been several days since I last wrote to you, owing to occu- 
pation, principally drilling my command and yesterday going on a 
foraging expedition. 4 Of this last you are advised by this time 
through the public press, as what with the telegraph and the night 
train, it is actually a fact that at 11 A. M. to-day I read in the Phila- 

1 Simon Cameron, secretary of war of the United States. 

2 Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States. 

3 Major-General Henry W. Halleck, U. S. A., in command of the Department 
of the Missouri. 

4 Engagement, Dranes ville, Va., December 20, 1861. Federal loss, killed, 
wounded, and missing, 68 (O. R.). 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 237 

delphia papers of this date an authentic account of the affair, fur- 
nished by McCall, before I had an opportunity of getting information 
either from Ord 1 or McCall. I do not know whether you will be dis- 
appointed in not seeing my name in connection with the affair, but 
this is the fortune of war. Reynolds and myself were allowed to 
secure our plunder undisturbed, but after permitting two expeditions, 
the enemy made preparations to capture the third, which was Ord's. 
He left early in the morning with his brigade, and Reynolds followed 
to support him, and it was intended that I should remain in camp for 
the day. About 10 o'clock, however, McCall received information 
from Ord, who was advancing, that he had reason to believe the 
enemy were going to dispute his advance. McCall immediately 
went out to join him, leaving word with me to get my command under 
arms and be ready to move at a moment's notice. About 1 p. m., 
hearing heavy firing, without waiting for orders, I started with the 
brigade and reached the scene, distant eleven miles, by 4 o'clock, 
only to learn that it was all over, and that I might march back to 
camp, which we did, arriving here about half-past 8, pretty well 
tired out. It appears they had four regiments and a battery of 
artillery. Ord had a battery and five regiments. They had the 
choice of ground and opened the attack. Their artillery was miser- 
ably served and did us no damage. Ours, on the contrary, under 
Ord's directions, was very well served and did great execution — so 
much so that, after throwing them into confusion, our men charged, 
and they fled in all directions, leaving their dead and wounded and 
lots of baggage on the ground, giving us a complete and brilliant suc- 
cess. I have just seen General Ord, and I asked him how the men 
behaved. He replied, better than he expected, but not so well as 
they ought; that there was much shirking and running away on the 
part of both officers and men. Still, he persuaded two regiments to 
maintain their ground and finally to charge. These were the Kane 
Rifles (Charley Biddle's regiment) and the Ninth, a very good regi- 
ment commanded by a Colonel Jackson. One regiment he could 
do nothing with — (but this, as well as all that precedes, is entre nous). 
The fact that the enemy were routed, leaving killed, wounded, bag- 
gage, etc., on the ground, will always be held up to show how gallantly 
the volunteers can and did behave, and the world will never know that 
it was the judicious posting and serving of the battery by Ord (him- 
self an artillery officer) which demoralized and threw into confusion 

Brigadier-General Edward 0. C. Ord, commanding 3d Brg. Pa. Reserves. 



238 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

the enemy, and prepared them to run the moment our people showed 
a bold front, which it required all Ord's efforts and some time to get 
them to do. Ord says if they had charged when he first ordered 
them, he would have captured the whole battery and lots of prisoners. 
You will see therefore that the result proves the justness of my pre- 
diction. Owing to the success of our artillery, the men were gotten 
up to the charging point. Had the artillery of the enemy been served 
as ours was, and committed the same devastation, he could not have 
kept his command together five minutes. In other words, it is suc- 
cess in the beginning of an action which keeps volunteers together, 
and disaster or being checked is sure to throw them into confusion 
or cause them to run. 

Among the wounded was an officer, and from his person was taken 
a letter which was evidently written by a person of intelligence and 
position. It speaks of their fortifications at Centreville, says they 
are prepared for McClellan's attack, that whilst they know an attack 
from him would be a military faux pas and cannot but result dis- 
astrously, yet their hopes are based upon the knowledge of the press- 
ure that is being brought to bear on him by the people of the North, 
who are ignorant of war and deluded with an overweening sense of 
their own power and a blind contempt for their enemy. This letter 
has been sent to McClellan. We have heard nothing from them 
since our return. 

Sunday, December 22. 

We have nothing new since the Dranesville affair, of which the 
papers will give you a full account. It is said McClellan is very much 
pleased, and McCall now expects to be reinstated in favor. I sup- 
pose, if I applied, I might get a forty-eight-hours' leave and spend a 
day with you; but what would be our feelings if during that time 
anything were to occur and my brigade be in action without me? 
The uncertainty of affairs, and the impossibility of foreseeing what is 
going to take place even twenty-four hours ahead, prevent me from 
making any application. 

I wrote to you some days ago to distribute * * * among the 
children, which I hope they will receive in time to make their Christ- 
mas purchases. It is my wish that they should have everything 
done for them to promote healthy enjoyment, and that the season of 
childhood, the brightest of our existence, should be to them as happy 
as we can make it, knowing that sorrows, cares and anxieties will do 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 239 

their work in time. Give them my blessing and my love. Perhaps 
it may be God's will I shall never see them again. 

There is a tremendous pressure being brought to bear on McClel- 
lan, and there is no telling how long he can or will stand it. No one 
can predict the future for twenty-four hours, and all we can do is to 
endeavor to be ready for all contingencies. Good-by ! God bless you 
all and give you a happy and as far as possible a merry Christmas ! 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 25, 1861. 

I write a few lines on this day of rejoicing and festivity, to let 
you know I am well, and though absent from you in the body, that 
I am with you and my dear children in spirit and thought. As this 
day is the anniversary commemorating the great promise held out 
to all mankind, let us hope it may promise speedy peace and happi- 
ness to us in this world as well as the one to come. God grant it 
may be so ! 

I see you are greatly concerned about the foreign news. I doubt 
that there will be a war with England, because I think I see symptoms 
of backing out on the part of our Government, notwithstanding all 
their bluster, and this shows the impropriety of our making such 
boasts and bragging, passing votes of thanks to Captain Wilkes 1 for 
an act we may be forced to disavow. A war with England would 
be nothing less than self-destruction on our part, amounting to mad- 
ness. Our only course is to yield to England's demands under pro- 
test, as to an acknowledged superior force, settle the rebellion, and 
then, when our hands are free, call on England for an apology or 
fight her. This course will not dishonor us, and will enable us to 
continue operations against the South unembarrassed by a foreign war. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 27, 1861. 

You have doubtless seen in the papers the enemy's account of 
the Dranesville fight. From their own showing they had a larger 
force than we, and chose their own position and time of attack, and 
yet were not only beaten, but most ignominiously driven off the field. 
It is without doubt one of the most brilliant and successful affairs of 
the war, and the only success that has been accomplished as yet by 
the Grand Army of the Potomac. 

You are mistaken in calling Ord a civilian. He is a West Pointer, 

1 Captain Charles Wilkes, U. S. N., in command of the frigate San Jacinto, 
captured Mason and Slidell on board the British steamer Trent. 



240 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

having graduated some four or five years after me, and has always 
been in the artillery, of which branch of the service he has always 
been considered a distinguished officer. Unfortunately for him, 
McCall's appearance on the field, just at the close of the affair, has 
given an opportunity to the latter to carry off the lion's share of the 
glory; but Ord was the man. I do not now remember what I wrote 
to you, but I should be sorry to do injustice to our men, and the fact 
is not to be disguised, that they behaved better than we expected. 

The weather continues very boisterous and cold, rendering life 
in camp proportionately uncomfortable. I do not mind the cold, 
because exercise by day and plenty of blankets by night will remedy 
it; but the terrible wind, which penetrates and searches into every- 
thing, shaking your tent and making you believe each moment it is 
coming down, filling it with smoke from your chimney, so that half 
the time you cannot keep any fire — this is what renders us so un- 
comfortable. Still we get along and preserve our health wonderfully. 

How strange it is and how little we can anticipate events! Do 
you remember when you accompanied me to Washington, about the 
1st of September, that I was nervous for fear Washington might be 
attacked before you reached it — then, after being assigned to McCall, 
how nervous I was lest a battle should come off before I got my 
brigade? And now four months have elapsed without matters 
changing their aspect materially. 

I infer from the tone of the public press that the war with Eng- 
land will be avoided, if concession on our part can keep it off, and 
that Mason and Slidell will be given up, and Wilkes's act disavowed, 
unless the ultras are too strong for Seward l and the President, or 
unless they see that England is determined to fight us and there is 
no use in trying to avoid the conflict. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 30, 1861. 
I intended yesterday (Sunday) to have written you a long letter, 
but just as I was getting ready to do so, orders came for a review by 
Governor Curtin. The review and attendant duties occupied pretty 
much the balance of the day. After the review, which passed off 
very well, Ord's, or the Third Brigade, was addressed by Governor 
Curtin, who eulogized their conduct at Dranesville, thanked them 
in the name of the people of Pennsylvania, and said he had directed 
the word Dranesville to be inscribed on the banner of each regiment 

1 William H. Seward, secretary of state of the United States. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 241 

in the brigade. Secretary Cameron, who was present, asked very 
kindly after you, and hoped you were quite well. Among Governor 
Curtin's cortege was Craig Biddle, 1 who seemed glad to see me, and 
said he had seen you only a few days ago in the street. General 
McClellan has issued a complimentary order, in which he returns 
his special thanks to General Ord and his brigade for the fight, and 
to McCall and the division for the prompt measures taken to repel 
the advance of reinforcements. 

Well, the vexed Trent affair is settled, and just as I expected it 
would be. Seward's letter I do not like. It is specious and petti- 
fogging. Had Mr. Seward written this letter immediately on receipt 
of the intelligence of the capture, and examination of the subject, 
then it would have been all right and honorable; but I do not under- 
stand the manliness of not finding out you are wrong until a demand 
is made for reparation, particularly as, anterior to that demand and 
its consequences, everything was done by Congress and the Navy 
Department, the press and all jurists, to insist on the justice and 
legality of the act. It is a clear case of backing out, with our tracks 
very badly covered up. I would have preferred insisting on the act 
being legal, but yielded on the broad ground of superior force and our 
inability at the present moment to resist the outrage. I think the 
course of England has been most disgraceful and unworthy of a great 
nation, and I feel confident that, if ever this domestic war of ours is 
settled, it will require but the slightest pretext to bring about a war 
with England. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., December 31, 1861. 
Do you know, to-day is our wedding-day and my birthday. 
Twenty-one years ago we pledged our faith to each other, and I 
doubt if any other couple live who, with all the ups and downs of 
life, have had more happiness with each other than you and I. I 
trust a merciful Providence will spare us both to celebrate yet many 
returns of the day, and that we shall see our children advancing in 
life prosperously and happily. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., January 2, 1862. 
I hear nothing of the movements against McClellan, because I 
am out of the way of politics entirely and do not often even see the 

1 Craig Biddle, of Philadelphia, afterward a judge of the court of common 
pleas. 



242 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

papers. I think, though, the President is his firm friend, and that 
he will not be disturbed so long as moderate and conservative views 
have the upper hand. Still, something must be done. This con- 
dition of quiescence, with such enormous expenses, is ruining the 
country, and, one way or the other, the attempt will have to be made 
to come to a conclusion. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., January 5, 1862. 

I fully expected before to-day we would have received the orders 
that we had hints about, but as yet nothing has been received. 
Possibly McClellan's sickness may have postponed them, for it 
is now pretty well known that he has been, if he is not now, 
quite sick, with all the symptoms of typhoid fever. His employ- 
ing a Homoeopathic doctor has astonished all his friends, and very 
much shaken the opinion of many in his claimed extraordinary 
judgment. 

The weather continues quite cold ; we have had a little snow, but 
the ground is frozen hard and the roads in fine order. I have seen 
so much of war and its chances that I have learned to be satisfied 
with things as they are and to have no wishes. Were it not for this 
philosophy, a movement would be desirable, for I am satisfied this 
army is gaining nothing by inaction, and that volunteers, beyond a 
certain point, are not improvable. And as this war will never be 
terminated without fighting, I feel like one who has to undergo a 
severe operation, that the sooner it is over the better. An officer 
from town this evening says the report there is that McCalFs Divi- 
sion is to join Burnside's expedition, 1 but I think this is a mere street 
rumor. They would not put an officer of McCalFs years and service 
under so young a man as Burnside. I think, however, that if the 
Burnside destination is correctly guessed, viz., up the Potomac, that 
it is highly probable that simultaneous with his attack of the river 
batteries a movement of the whole of this army will be made on the 
Centreville lines, to prevent any detachment of their forces to rein- 
force the batteries and their guard. Should Burnside be successful 
and find a point where we could advance in their rear, then a large 
force will be sent in that direction, while the balance attack them in 
front. This is all surmise and is entre nous, but I have a notion it is 
McClellan's plan just now. 

1 Brigadier-General Ambrose E. Burnside, commanding expedition to Roanoke 
Island, N. C. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 243 

Camp Pierpont, Va., January 16, 1862. 
Every one seems relieved at the change in the War Department, 1 
though the secret cause is as yet unknown, some putting it on his 
political faith, others on his want of integrity, etc., etc. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., January 24, 1862. 
The mysterious movements of the Burnside expedition puzzle 
me very much. It has now been about ten days, and yet we have no 
reliable information of its whereabouts. The victory in Kentucky 2 
was certainly very important in its results, and if the Confederate 
Army of the Potomac do not fight better than Zollicoffer's army, we 
ought to be victorious. For ten thousand men to run as they did, 
after losing only one hundred and fifty killed, is more disgraceful 
than the behavior of our troops at Bull Run. At Ball's Bluff, though 
we were overpowered by superior numbers, yet our men behaved with 
great gallantry. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., January 26, 1862. 
To-day being Sunday, I had an invitation from General McCall 
to dine with him, which I accepted, and had a very pleasant time 
discussing matters and things in general. McCall thinks France 
and England will recognize the Southern Confederacy and interfere 
in their behalf. I am not of this opinion, unless we should fail in 
the next six months to make any further progress in suppressing the 
revolution than we have as yet done. I cannot believe that eight 
millions of people, however great their spirit and individual gallantry 
may be, can hold at bay twenty millions, unless the latter are das- 
tards and ignoramuses. If our men will fight, as men ought to do 
who pretend to be soldiers, and our resources are properly managed 
and directed, we must whip them so badly and distress them so much 
that they will be compelled to accept terms of peace dictated by us, 
provided we ask nothing of them but what we have a right to do, 
viz., to return to their allegiance under the old Constitution, and 
agree that the will of the majority shall govern. Here, however, is 
our great danger, and it lies in the effort that the ultras are making 
to give a character to the war which will forbid any hope of the 

1 Edwin M. Stanton succeeded Simon Cameron as secretary of war. 

2 Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky, January 19, 1862. The Federal troops 
under Brigadier-General George H. Thomas defeated the Confederate troops 
under General G. B. Crittenden, led by General F. K. Zollicoffer. Federal loss, 
killed, wounded, and missing, 194 (0. R.). 



244 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Southerners ever yielding as long as there is any power of resistance 
left in them. I still trust, however, in the good sense of the mass of 
the people to preserve us from a condition from which I fear it would 
take years to emerge. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., February 6, 1862. 

Day before yesterday, the weather being promising, and tired of 
the mud and ennui of camp, I mounted my horse and in company 
with Kuhn rode into town. After getting off the mud, we paid 
several visits which I had long been contemplating. In the evening, 
Kuhn went to see some Boston friends, and I passed the evening at 
Harry Prince's room, smoking and talking over old times and present 
troubles. 

The next morning I started at 1 p. M. to Mrs. McClellan's. Here 
I found all Washington — citizen, foreign and strangers — among 
whom of course I saw many friends and acquaintances. Everybody 
asked after you, and wondered you did not come down and stay in 
Washington while the army was here, as if you could do as you please. 
Now for Mrs. McClellan. Her manners are delightful; full of life 
and vivacity, great affability, and very ready in conversation. She 
did not hear my name when presented, but while I was apologizing 
for not having earlier called to see her, she said, "General Meade, 
is it not?" I said "Yes." She said, "I knew it must be from the 
likeness, for I have your picture." I told her I felt very much com- 
plimented, etc., etc. During the three hours I spent there a constant 
succession of visitors came in and out to call, and to all of whom she 
had plenty to say in the easiest and most affable manner. I came 
away quite charmed with her esprit and vivacity. 

I hear that the flag of truce which came in the other day brought 
the intelligence that the Confederate Government intended to hold 
the officers who were hostages for the privateers as hostages for the 
bridge burners that Halleck has sentenced to be hung in Missouri. 
If this is so, poor Willcox will be detained, if not sacrificed, as I do 
not well see how our Government can recede from punishing men 
who are not soldiers, but incendiaries, having no claim to the rights 
of prisoners of war, beyond the fact that the war incited them to do 
what they did. 

I called at Mr. Stanton's in the evening, with a friend who knew 
him; but we were told at the door that his usual reception was post- 
poned for Mrs. Lincoln's ball. I then accompanied this friend to a 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 245 

liquor store kept by Mr. Fred. S. Cozzens, the author of the Sparrow- 
grass Papers and other well-known literary productions, who finds 
liquor selling more profitable than literature. Here I was introduced 
to Mr. Cozzens, a member of Congress and others, discussed a bot- 
tle of champagne and claret, and talked over the affairs of the 
day. The member, who was an Administration Democrat, said the 
ultras had been defeated some days ago, in a vote of censure that they 
had tried to pass on Halleck, and that there was in the House a clear 
majority for the President as against the ultras. Much anxiety in 
regard to foreign intervention and the lack of means was expressed. 
The Georgia address was considered a sign of desperation, and pre- 
paring the Southern mind for defeat. Altogether, the feeling is one 
of hope. I have told you the whole of my town spree. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., February 9, 1862. 

Is not the news from Tennessee glorious? l It is very important 
in a strategical point of view, as it enables us to get in the rear of 
both Columbus and Bowling Green, and cut off the communication 
and supplies from these places, compelling their evacuation, which 
effected, we can attack them in the open field. Dranesville, Mill 
Spring, and Fort Henry prove most conclusively that they are not 
invincible, and will run just as soon, if not sooner, than we will. 
They have had a most beneficial effect on our morale, and I think all 
hands are now here looking forward to the period when we can do 
something. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., February 11, 1862. 

To-night we have the good news that Roanoke Island has been 
taken by the Burnside fleet, and while I write the camp is cheering 
all around me. There are no particulars, so that our cheers are un- 
mingled with mourning. General Wise, 2 you know, was at Roanoke 
Island; so perhaps your good mother may have to rejoice over his 
capture, or mourn his death; let us hope as Christians the former 
may prove to be the case. Nothing has transpired in reference to 
Stone's arrest. I must believe he is the victim of political malice, 

1 The surrender of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, February 6, 1862. 
The Federal troops under Brigadier-General U. S. Grant, and the gun-boats under 
Commodore A. H. Foote, defeated the Confederate troops under Brigadier- 
General Tilghman. The Confederates surrendered after the attack by the gun- 
boats and just as the Federal troops arrived. 

2 General Henry A. Wise, C. S. A., brother-in-law of Mrs. Meade, and Gover- 
nor of Virginia, 1856-1860. 



246 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

and that he will be vindicated from the charge of treachery and col- 
lusion with the enemy. You know I always told you his conduct 
at Ball's Bluff, in a military point of view, was open to criticism, and 
I always wondered McClellan did not order an investigation. The 
" Tribune " is becoming more violent and open in its attacks on 
McClellan and all regular officers. This is in the interest of Fremont, 
Jim Lane and others. All this I am glad to see; the more violent 
they become, the more open and bold, the sooner the question of 
putting them down or yielding to them will have to be settled, and 
until that question is settled, there is no peace practicable or possible. 
To-night's paper has a very important and good piece of news if 
true, viz: that Louis Napoleon in the address to his Chambers says, 
that so long as we respect the rights of neutrals France will not 
interfere. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., February 16, 1862. 
Sergeant 1 writes that your mother appears softened at Oby Wise's 2 
death. I must confess if lives are to be sacrificed less sympathy should 
be shown for those who have plunged us into this difficulty, with 
their eyes open, and Oby Wise by his writings and conduct was as 
influential in bringing on the war as any one in his sphere could be. 
It appears he lost his life in attempting to escape in a boat. Had he 
surrendered when the day was lost, he would not have sacrificed his 
life. I think the rabid feeling you describe as existing against McClel- 
lan is confined to a certain party, and they are in the minority; 
though being very loud and noisy in their abuse, would seem to be 
formidable. I don't think they can succeed in their attempts to 
displace him. I am now very anxious to hear from Fort Donelson. 3 
A reverse there at the present moment would be very unfortunate; 
and I trust Halleck has arranged matters so as to render success in 
all human probability certain. The attack has, however, been in 
progress for four days, which is time enough for it to have fallen, 
provided it can be carried by assault. Perhaps to-morrow we shall 
hear something, but the absence of all news to-day is not favorable. 
We had quite a fall of snow yesterday, and neither the weather nor 
the roads indicate much prospect of our moving. Foolish people 

1 Son of General Meade. 2 Son of Henry A. Wise. 

3 Fort Donelson, twelve miles from Fort Henry, captured February 16, 
1862. The Federal forces, under Brigadier-General U. S. Grant and Commodore 
A. H. Foote, defeated the Confederate troops under General J. B. Floyd. Fed- 
eral loss, killed, wounded, and missing, 2,832 (O. R.). 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 247 

consider the war over because we have had a few victories, but I 
consider it just begun. I believe, though, if we continue to be as fort- 
unate as we have recently been, that it will not be long before the 
other side will have enough of it. There are many signs indicating 
that the people in the South are beginning to be tired, and if we can 
only inflict two or three really severe blows on them, breaking up 
their armies, I don't believe they will be able to gather them together 
again in any formidable numbers. Let us hope and pray for such a 
result and not mind the idle clamor of bad or foolish people. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., February 23, 1862. 

I did not go into town yesterday; there was an order requiring 
at least two generals to remain with each division. So that Reynolds 
and myself remained. I have not heard how the ceremonies came 
off, but the weather was unfavorable and the death at the White 
House had cast a gloom over the city. 1 For my part I consider the 
propriety of rejoicing somewhat questionable. In the first place, 
because we are not yet out of the woods, and, secondly, the character 
of the war is such, that though I undoubtedly desire success, yet I 
do not feel we can or should triumph and boast as we would over a 
foreign foe. If we ever expect to be reunited, we should remember 
this fact and deport ourselves more like the afflicted parent who is 
compelled to chastise his erring child, and who performs the duty 
with a sad heart. Some such feeling must have prevailed in Con- 
gress yesterday, for I see Mr. Crittenden's motion prevailed at the 
last moment, dispensing with the presentation of the flags captured. 

I do not know what to make of our new Secretary. I do not 
like his letter to the "Tribune" and many of the speeches attributed 
to him. He appears to me by his cry of " Fight, fight — be whipped 
if you must, but fight on," as very much of the bull-in-a-china-shop 
order, and not creditable to his judgment. To fight is the duty and 
object of armies, undoubtedly, but a good general fights at the right 
time and place, and if he does not, he is pretty sure to be whipped 
and stay whipped. It is very easy to talk of fighting on after you 
are whipped; but I should like to know, if this is all, how wars are 
ever terminated? I fear the victories in the Southwest are going to 
be injurious to McClellan, by enabling his enemies to say, Why can- 
not you do in Virginia what has been done in Tennessee? They do 
not reflect that the operations in Tennessee are part of the operations 
1 Death of President Lincoln's son. 



248 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

in Virginia, and that all will come in good time; but in their insane 
impatience to come to an end, they think, because we have been vic- 
torious once or twice, we are never to be defeated. 

We sent out an expedition yesterday to reconnoitre and see if 
anything could be discovered of the enemy. They went some eight 
or ten miles and returned. The officer in command tells me to-day 
his men are entirely used up, and an ambulance, which is designed to 
carry three men with one horse, could hardly get along empty with 
three horses attached. You can imagine from this the character of 
the roads, and the practicability of a forward movement, and this has 
been the case ever since the 7th of last month, when the thaw com- 
menced. I hear there is great opposition in the Senate to the con- 
firmation of our friend "Baldy." I don't think they will succeed 
in rejecting him, but they have fought so hard that his friends on two 
occasions have thought it advisable to postpone taking a vote. I 
cannot ascertain whether I have passed or not, and am so indiffer- 
ent that I have not taken the trouble to inquire of any one who might 
be able to inform me. 1 My name was published in a list of those 
said to have been confirmed, but it is now said that list was wrong. I 
don't know of any probable opposition, unless my friend Zach Chand- 
ler 2 should think proper to enlighten the Senate on his Detroit ex- 
perience of my unreliability. 3 I think Howard, though, would be an 
antidote to his bane. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., February 25, 1862. 
I take it for granted from the tone of the public press and from 
the position McClellan is in, that he will move now as soon as he 
possibly can. His enemies, with skillful ingenuity, are trying to sow 
discord between him and Halleck, Grant and Buell, proclaiming 
that he claims all the credit of their victories. I am sorry to say I hear 
people talk this way who ought to know better, and from all I can 
learn McClellan's star is rapidly setting, and nothing but a victory 
will save him from ruin. It is well known his victories in Western 
Virginia last summer precipitated and caused Bull Run. Now the 
victories in Tennessee are forcing a movement here, with, I trust and 
believe, a better result than was attained last summer. I have but 

1 Nominated for brigadier-general U. S. Vols. 

2 Zachariah Chandler, senator from Michigan, and afterward a member of 
the congressional committee on the conduct of war. 

3 General Meade's refusal to attend a mass meeting of the citizens of Detroit 
to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. See page 214. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 249 

little doubt of our success, and I think if we can overthrow the army 
they have in our front, that they will give it up, as I do not believe 
they can reorganize another large army. It is reported Cobb came 
to Fortress Monroe, the other day, ostensibly as a commissioner, 
with the returned prisoners; but as this is the first time they have 
thought it necessary to send a commissioner with the prisoners, and 
as Wool immediately despatched his aide, Colonel Tom Cram, to 
Washington, it is surmised that Cobb was bearer of some terms of 
compromise. I do not think, however, they are yet willing to accept 
the only terms we can grant — unconditional surrender and return to 
the status quo ante helium. They have too large an army yet uncon- 
quered to justify their giving up without another cast of the die, 
which may be in their favor. I think, though, success on our part 
here will bring them to their senses, and I think we have every reason 
to believe, from our numbers, discipline and the morale produced by 
the recent victories, that we will be victorious. God grant that it 
may be so, and that I may survive to enjoy with you and my dear 
children the blessings of peace ! 

Camp Pierpont, Va., February 27, 1862. 

We are all agog with orders received to be in readiness to move 
at short notice, and rumor has it that Banks above, and Hooker be- 
low, have both either crossed or are about crossing. I have no doubt 
we are on the eve of the long-expected operations, but the roads 
are not yet in a condition to justify our moving, and public impa- 
tience will have to be restrained for a little while. We receive very 
contradictory accounts from Manassas. Some say the force is very 
much reduced, whole regiments from the extreme South having gone 
home, refusing to re-enlist. Others say that no regiments have gone, 
but a great many soldiers have gone on furlough, after having re- 
enlisted. I presume the truth lies between the two. I expect we 
shall meet with vigorous opposition, but I trust our operations will 
be so conducted, both in the routes of approach and our numbers, 
that we shall be enabled to overcome and defeat them. 

Yesterday I received my parchment as brigadier general, which 
shows I have been confirmed by the Senate. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., March 1, 1862. 
Yesterday was a very disagreeable day, extremely cold, with a 
very high wind, and blustering weather. I was obliged to be exposed, 



250 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

standing in the wind from 9 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon, 
mustering the several regiments of my brigade. 

We are all in the dark as to where or in what direction we move. 
I surmise (this is entre nous) that a force will be crossed below Alex- 
andria, while Banks threatens Winchester and we advance on Cen- 
treville. If either of these columns is successful and penetrate the 
lines of the enemy, the whole force, or at least a large portion of it, 
will be thrown into the opening. If we can once get in their rear, 
and compel them to leave their entrenchments, I think we will have 
a comparatively easy victory, and we have so large a force that I 
do not see any difficulty in effecting this operation. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., March 4, 1862. 
I believe you get all the news in the papers before we do. The 
interdiction on the telegraph does not amount to much, as there has 
been literally nothing done except the passage of the Potomac by 
General Banks' column. Yesterday it stormed all day, raining and 
sleeting, as wintry weather as we have had this winter. I do not know 
what the plans and projects are, but I do know I would not move an 
army such weather and over such roads as we have at present. 

Camp Pierpont, Va., March 9, 1862. 
I am very much afraid there is a great deal of truth in what 
told you, and that the President is at length yielding to the 



immense pressure that has been brought to bear to influence him to 
remove McClellan. McClellan, I understand, continues firm and 
undaunted. He says they may supersede him whenever they please, 
but so long as he is responsible, he intends to do what he thinks 
right, and not what others dictate. 

This morning's paper announces the evacuation of Leesburg and 
its occupation by a part of Banks' force. I never expected they 
would attempt to hold either Winchester or Leesburg after we were 
ready to move in force. 

I hear we are to be divided into four corps d' armee, to be com- 
manded respectively by Sumner, McDowell, Heintzelman and Keyes. 
Into which of these commands McCall's Division will be incorporated 
is not yet decided. I don't think there is much choice between them. 
The selection of these men, by virtue of the seniority of their com- 
missions, was, I understand, opposed by McClellan, who, finding he 
could not designate his commanders, objected to corps d' armee, and 
said he only wanted divisions and their commanders. He has been 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 251 

overruled, and these officers selected in opposition to his openly- 
expressed views. All this is confidential, though it is a matter of 
absolute fact. Public opinion in this country is so wayward and so 
whimsical that I should not be surprised to see the same people who 
the other day called McClellan a demi-god, to-morrow applauding 
his removal. 

Camp at Hunter's Mills, Va., March 11, 1862. 

I send you a few hasty lines to tell you where we are, and to re- 
lieve the anxiety which you will doubtless have from the reports in 
the papers. Yesterday at 11 A. M. we received orders to march. 
At 1 P. M. we got off, and marched fifteen miles, arriving at this point 
about 8 p. M. The whole army has advanced, and we are on the 
extreme right, distant about twelve miles from Centreville. We pre- 
sumed when starting yesterday that we would have a brush in a day 
or two with the enemy. But this morning we hear that McDowell's 
Division, that advanced on Centreville, finding it was evacuated, and 
hearing that they had evacuated Manassas, continued on and is now 
in possession of their lately vaunted impregnable stronghold. Thus 
the prospects of another Bull Run battle are dissipated — unless they 
have, as the French say, only reculer pour mieux sauter. 

We hear to-day of the disastrous naval conflict at Newport News. 1 
This is a very bad business, and shows the superior enterprise of our 
enemies. There is no reason we should not have had the Cumber- 
land iron-clad, as the Merrimac has been prepared by them. The 
loss of two such vessels as the Cumberland and the Congress, two of 
our finest frigates, is a very serious blow, not only to our material 
interests, but to our pride and naval forces. 

I have not time to write you much beyond the fact that I am well. 
I have been in the saddle all day, posting troops and pickets, and 
making all the preparations to meet the enemy, though, from the 
reports in existence and believed, there is not much probability of 
his showing himself about here. 



To Henrietta Meade: 2 

Camp at Hunter's Mills, Va., March 13, 1862. 
I think a great deal about you, and all the other dear children. 
I often picture to myself as I last saw you — yourself, Sarah and Willie 

1 Destruction of the gun-boats Cumberland and Congress by the Confederate 
iron-clad Merrimac. 

2 Daughter of General Meade. 



252 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

lying in bed, crying, because I had to go way, and while I was scold- 
ing you for crying, I felt like crying myself. It is very hard to be 
kept away from you, because there is no man on earth that loves his 
children more dearly than I do, or whose happiness is more depend- 
ent on being with his family. Duty, however, requires me to be 
here, to do the little I can to defend our old flag, and whatever duty 
requires us to do, we should all, old and young, do cheerfully, however 
disagreeable it may be. 

We came here, expecting to have a big fight with the Seceshers, 
but they have all cleared out, and I don't know what we shall do — 
whether we will go after them from here, or go back to Washington 
and take some other road. 

I shall be very glad to hear from you again whenever you have 
time to write me another such nice letter. 



To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Camp at Hunter's Mills, Va., March 14, 1862. 
To-day we have orders to be ready to leave at a moment's notice 
and prepare to go by water. This confirms my anticipation. The 
railroad to Alexandria will be in running order to-day, and I pre- 
sume we will take the cars for that place, and from thence go by boat 
to some point down the river, not improbably Old Point Comfort. 
It appears to me that Norfolk is the most important point now, and 
that its attempted reduction cannot be much longer delayed. Of 
course, all this is surmise on my part, and is, moreover, confidential. 
All we know is that we are going somewhere pretty soon, and that we 
are on the eve of decided and critical events. 

Camp near Alexandria, March 17, 1862. 
My last letter was written to you at Hunter's Mills, I think, on 
Friday, the 14th. On the evening of that day we received orders to 
come here, and started after dark in a pouring rain, marched six 
miles and bivouacked. The next day it poured all day, and the roads 
were in terrible condition, so that we were obliged to bivouac again 
and pass the night in a drenching rain. Yesterday it held up, and 
we marched to our present position, within two miles of Alexandria, 
where we are now bivouacked on the bleak hills, awaiting further 
orders. I do not think I have ever seen a much harder march than 
the one from Hunter's Mills to this place. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 253 

Camp near Alexandria, March 18, 1862. 

I note all you write about McClellan. I fear it is all true, and 
that the most desperate efforts have been made and are still being 
made to take away his command and destroy him. Franklin told 
me that McClellan said to him, as they followed Lander's corpse, 
that he almost wished he was in the coffin instead of Lander. It is 
reported that they were about to introduce into the House of Repre- 
sentatives a vote of want of confidence in him, but were restrained 
by fearing it would not pass. It is said the President remains his 
friend. 

McClellan is not the man to make himself popular with the masses. 
His manners are reserved and retiring. He was not popular either 
in Chicago or Cincinnati, when at the head of large railroad interests. 
He has never studied or practiced the art of pleasing, and indeed has 
not paid that attention to it which every man whose position is de- 
pendent on popular favor must pay, if he expects to retain his posi- 
tion. Now, you know long before the tide turned, I told you of ill- 
advised acts on his part, showing a disposition to gratify personal 
feelings, at the expense of his own interests. I have no doubt now 
that the enmity of Heintzelman, Sumner, McDowell and Keyes can 
all be traced to this very cause — his failure to conciliate them, and 
the injustice they consider his favoritism to others has been to them. 
So long as he had full swing, they were silent, but so soon as others 
had shaken the pedestal he stood on, they join in to lend their hands. 

Don't you remember as early as last September, telling us 

how indignant Charles King was at the treatment of General Scott 
by McClellan, and that the General had said he would have arrested 
him for disrespect if he had dared to? In the selection of his staff 
he has not shown the judgment he might have done. There are too 
many men on it that are not worthy to be around a man with McClel- 
lan's reputation. Again, you know my opinion of his treatment of 
the Ball's Bluff affair, through personal regard for Stone. All these 
little things have combined, with his political foes, to shake his posi- 
tion. I think, however, it is pretty well settled that Old Abe has 
determined he will not cut his head off till he has had a chance, and 
as I wrote you before, all will depend now on the hazard of a die. 
Any disaster, never mind from what cause, will ruin him, and any 
success will reinstate him in public favor. 

It is very hard to know what is going to be done, or what the 
enemy will do. My opinion is that they are concentrating all their 



254 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

available forces around Richmond, and that they will make there a 
determined and desperate resistance. Of course, this defense will 
be made at first in advance, as far as they deem it prudent to go, or 
as they can readily retire from, as for instance, the Rappahannock on 
the north, Fredericksburg and the Potomac on the east, Yorktown 
and Norfolk on the southeast. Where McClellan will attack them 
is not known, but before many days are over it will be settled, and 
we will have a fight either at Fredericksburg, Yorktown or Norfolk. 
For my part, the sooner we meet them the better. The thing has to 
be done, and there is nothing gained by delay. The morale is on our 
side; our recent victories, their retreat from Manassas, all combine 
to inspirit us and demoralize them; and if our men only behave as 
we hope and believe they will, I think before long we shall have 
Richmond. 

I rode over this morning and saw Willie. 1 I found on my arrival 
that there was in camp a party of ladies and gentlemen, consisting 
of Mr. Charles King, of New York, and his daughter, Mrs. Captain 
Ricketts, and her sister, who is married to a son of Charles King, a 
captain in the Twelfth (Willie's) Regiment. These ladies had come 
out to see Captain King, accompanied by Colonel Van Rensselaer, 
who you remember married a niece of Charles King. They had pre- 
pared a lunch, and all the officers were partaking of it, and having, 
as is usual, a merry time. Soon after I rode up, Miss King recognized 
Kuhn, who was with me, and sent Captain Wister, 2 of the regiment 
after him, and in a few minutes Colonel Van Rensselaer came up to 
me, and, after the usual salutations, politely asked me to permit him 
to present me to the party. Of course I had to say yes, and went up 
with him and joined the party. Mrs. Ricketts, you know, was a Miss 
Lawrence. I had known her mother and family all my life. She is 
now a great heroine. After doing the civil to the party I retired. 

Friday, March 28, 1862. 
I think I wrote you that on Tuesday we had a grand review of the 
whole of the First Army Corps. Yesterday we had another, for the 
benefit of Lord Lyons and some English officers, to which, although 
the generals of McCall's Division were invited to be present, the 
division did not appear. General McDowell's reason for its exclu- 
sion was that the ground was limited, and that he found it took too 

1 William Sergeant, brother of Mrs. Meade. 

2 Francis Wister, captain 12th U. S. Infantry. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 255 

much time to review three divisions, and therefore he only ordered 
two on the ground. Our fellows, though, are of the opinion that he 
did not consider them sufficiently presentable for his English friends; 
and some little feeling has been excited by his course, particularly 
as he has had the bad taste to come out to-day with an order extolling 
the troops for their yesterday's appearance, and announcing that the 
English officers pronounced them equal to any troops in the world. I 
was quite satisfied with the inspection of the appearance and move- 
ments of the men, that our Pennsylvania ragamuffins are fully equal 
to them, though in some few instances, like Phil Kearney's brigade 
(who had spent a mint of money on them), their uniforms were in 
rather better order. Our fellows console themselves with the reflec- 
tion that the only troops in the First Army Corps that have beaten 
the enemy in a fair field, with equal numbers, are the Pennsylvania 
ragamuffins, whereas of the divisions deemed worthy to be presented 
to the Englishmen the greater portion were regiments who either did 
nothing or else behaved shamefully at Bull Run. 

At the review yesterday McClellan appeared on the ground, and 
though he did not review the troops, yet he rode around after Mc- 
Dowell and his cortege. It would have done your heart good to have 
heard the shouts the men gave and the enthusiasm they exhibited 
when they saw him. I really believe he has the hearts of the soldiers 
with him. 

Camp near Alexandria, Monday Evening, March 31, 1862. 

To-day has been clear and quite spring-like. Reynolds and my- 
self rode over to inspect some of the larger forts that have been 
erected in this neighborhood. The rumor now is that we are to get 
off on day after to-morrow, the whole of the First Corps (forty-five 
thousand men) together, and that we are to be landed at the same 
time, at some point where we may expect our landing to be resisted, 
or to encounter the enemy very soon after landing. For my part, I 
hope it will prove true, for this suspense and uncertainty is very dis- 
agreeable, and as we have to fight, the sooner we get at it and settle 
it the better. Nothing but the grossest mismanagement will prevent 
our success, for we have a really fine army and the troops in the best 
of spirits. 

Camp near Alexandria, April 2, 1862. 

Every one, soldiers and all, are impatient to be off and at work. 
We are anxious to see what we can do before the hot weather begins, 



256 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

and are rather fearful that our Southern antagonists will be getting 
out of the way, to draw us farther south and delay us till the climate 
shall come to their aid. This, however, is not my view; I think we 
shall have plenty of fighting before we can secure Richmond. 

Camp near Alexandria, April 4, 1862. 
Everything here has been changed. Just as we were on the eve 
of embarking, orders came to proceed by land to Manassas and be- 
yond. The meaning of this change of movement no one knows. 
Some say it is due to the fears of the President for Washington; 
others that it is a traverse McDowell is working to get away from 
McClellan and go it on his own hook. I believe both causes have 
conspired to bring it about; but whatever the cause, it is gross injustice 
to McClellan to interrupt and interfere with his plans without con- 
sulting him. He has gone down to Old Point in the firm belief and 
dependence that McDowell and his corps of forty thousand men 
would go where he wanted them to go, instead of which he suddenly 
hears, or will hear, that they have gone, under the orders of some one 
else, in an entirely different direction. How any man can be ex- 
pected to carry on a campaign when such interferences and derange- 
ment of plans are perpetrated, surpasses my comprehension. Re- 
member, all this is confidential; not a word to any one about it. 
Franklin was off at daylight and King this afternoon; we (McCall's 
Division) have not yet gotten our orders, but expect them momen- 
tarily. So far as going by land is concerned, I am quite satisfied with 
the change; but I do not like the apparent want of decision involved 
in the sudden changing of plans, and I fear, unless we have a head 
and one mind to plan, that the old adage of too many cooks, etc., 
will be verified. 

Camp near Alexandria, Sunday, April 6, 1862. 
In my last letter I told you of the change in our destination, and 
surmised the causes. Yesterday the orders appeared creating the 
Departments of the Shenandoah and Rappahannock, assigning Banks 
to the command of one and McDowell to the other. Thus McClellan, 
at a blow, is deprived of two army corps on which he relied to carry 
out his plans. It is said an urgent telegram was received from him 
for McDowell to go down, just as the order was issued taking McDow- 
ell's corps from him. Many believe and hope he will resign; I trust 
he will not commit such a fatal error. He has over one hundred 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 257 

thousand men with him. This force, led by him and enthusiastic in 
his behalf, can accomplish much, and any success on his part will 
silence his enemies and reinstate him in favor. 

Camp near Alexandria, Tuesday, April 8, 1862. 

At length our orders have come; this division is to go to-morrow 
to Manassas by railroad. From thence our movements are uncertain, 
but I presume dependent on the success met in the attack McClellan 
is making by the York and James Rivers. The report to-day is that 
they are hard at work fighting near Yorktown ; that McClellan is in 
the advance in the thickest of it. God grant he may be victorious 
and preserved, that he may outlive and put down his enemies ! 

We have had all day a terrible storm of snow and rain, one of the 
worst we have had this spring. Our men, however, have been get- 
ting tents from the abandoned camps in our vicinity, so that they 
are comparatively comfortable. 

Camp near Alexandria, April 9, 1862. 

I write a few lines to let you know I have not yet gone, though I 
expect to be off to-morrow. Reynolds's brigade left to-day, and 
though 11 o'clock was the hour fixed, yet they did not get off till 
after 4 p. m., being in the meantime exposed to one of the worst 
storms of snow and hail we have had this winter and spring. I do 
not know the cause of the delay, but I sincerely trust matters will be 
better arranged to-morrow, and we not so detained. 

You have of course heard the glorious news from the West and 
Southwest. 1 It does seem as if Providence had decreed the South 
should be humiliated. Such a continued succession of victories with- 
out disaster is almost unparalleled, and seems to take from war its 
hitherto accepted character of being a game of chance. From York- 
town we hear nothing definite, except that our army has arrived before 
the enemy's works, which are found to be strong and formidable. 
McClellan has the means and the power to reduce them, and it is 
only a question of time. I have implicit confidence in his success. 
Rumor says the enemy has a considerable force between the waters 
of the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, which force will oppose the 
progress of McDowell's column; so that we are led to believe that a 

1 Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, April 6 and 7, 1862. Federal troops under 
Major-General U. S. Grant defeated the Confederate troops under General Beaure- 
gard. Federal loss, killed, wounded, and missing, 13,047 (0. R). 



258 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

share of the glory yet awaits us. I do not believe, however, that 
they will make much opposition on this line after McClellan gets 
possession of Yorktown, for he will then threaten Richmond, the fall 
of which would completely cut off any force to the north on the 
Rappahannock, as Fremont in the Southwest and Banks in the Val- 
ley of the Shenandoah would cut off all means of escape. It does 
seem to me the people of the South are insane to continue the contest 
for the benefit of politicians and leaders, when it must be so evident 
to them that final success on their part is hopeless. All their calcula- 
tions have failed, and there remains now but one desperate hope to 
them, and that is, that the enormous expenditures of the war will tire 
out the North; but this will prove equally false so long as we con- 
tinue to gain brilliant victories, as the North will willingly spend 
money to acquire glory. 

I suppose you remember General Mackall, just captured by Pope. 
He paid you a visit one evening with Dr. Simons when I was in 
Florida. He was a great friend of mine, a clever gentleman, who 
would have remained with us had the Government treated Southern 
officers with ordinary confidence and decency. Franklin is at War- 
renton, the residence of Beckham's people; when I get to Manassas, 
I will inquire about them. 

Camp near Alexandria, April 10, 1862. 
Instead of going to-day by railroad, as was expected, we have 
orders now to march early to-morrow morning by the turnpike road 
to Manassas. This, therefore, is the last letter I shall write you from 
this camp. The bad storm we have had has ceased, and the weather 
looks favorable, so that the change from being cooped up in cars to 
marching is agreeable. I think the plan is for our column, some 
thirty thousand strong, to threaten Richmond from the north, and 
if McClellan should be delayed or checked in his approach by way 
of Yorktown, we will stand a good chance of having something to do. 
My experience, however, dictates that all calculations in war of this 
kind are vain. Often those who fancy they are the most remote 
from battle are the first in, and those who expect to do all the fight- 
ing are frequently the spectators of the deeds of others. 

Camp at Manassas, Sunday, April 13. 
My last letter was written to you from Alexandria, on the evening 
of the 10th instant. The next morning we started on our march to 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 259 

this place, which we reached yesterday afternoon, passing through 
Centreville. On our arrival here we found Franklin's Division had 
been ordered back to McClellan. As this was a checkmate to McDow- 
ell, he has started off to Washington, and we now do not know what 
is going to be done with us. The withdrawal of Franklin reduces his 
army corps to two divisions of only twenty thousand men — hardly 
enough to attempt to threaten Richmond from this direction. I 
suppose he will try to get another division with which to cross the 
Rappahannock and advance on Richmond. If he does not succeed 
in this, I presume we will be kept here till the affair at Yorktown is 
decided, and if it should be in our favor, I think they will fall back 
from Richmond and probably abandon Virginia altogether. We can- 
not tell till McDowell gets back what our movements will be. This 
morning I rode over the whole of the Bull Run battle-field. A more 
beautiful ground for a battle never existed; country open, with rolling 
ground of gentle slopes, offering equal advantages to the attacking 
and attacked. I am now more satisfied than ever that we lost the 
day from gross mismanagement — a combination of bad generalship 
and bad behavior on the part of raw troops. This, however, is entre 
nous. Their works at Centreville and at this place are quite strong, 
and it would have given us a good deal of trouble to have driven 
them out, and it was a very good thing they evacuated them. I 
hope we shall be successful in driving them from Yorktown; though 
the last accounts would seem to indicate that they are pretty well pre- 
pared for us there, and that we have yet our hands full to drive them 
out. As I understand, the difficulty is that, owing to the fear of the 
Merrimac, the gunboats cannot leave Fortress Monroe to ascend the 
York River and take their batteries in the rear. It is said, however, 
the Navy have a plan, by which they are confident they will sink 
the Merrimac, if she gives them a fair chance, in which I trust they 
may succeed. 

Camp at Manassas Junction, April 16, 1862. 
As to ourselves, we are in statu quo. McDowell has only two 
divisions, King's (his old one) and McCall's, and we are employed in 
the important duty of guarding the railroad from the Rappahannock 
to Washington. For what object this railroad is guarded beyond the 
necessity of supplying its own guard with provisions and forage, no 
one sees. It is evident we cannot advance on Richmond from the 
Rappahannock, because at that point the direct route leaves the rail- 



260 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

road, and the roads across are impassable for artillery and wagons. 
It has been surmised that we are kept here because they are fearful 
the Merrimac may run the gauntlet at Fortress Monroe, in which 
case they could pen McClellan in on the peninsula, between the York 
and James Rivers, and then they could detach a force to threaten 
Washington. There may be something in this, but even granting its 
practicability, we would be as near Washington at Fredericksburg 
as at this place, and at the same time would more effectually threaten 
Richmond from that point. McDowell, I understand, is thoroughly 
disgusted with the turn affairs have taken, completely taking the 
wind out of his sails, and that he has sent an earnest appeal to his 
friends in Washington to have him retransferred to McClellan's 
army. Now that McClellan has got Franklin, I doubt if he cares 
to have McDowell any more with him. 

It is a very pretty country around here, and the position occupied 
by the enemy was very strong. I don't believe they will soon again 
get another line as defensible as this one was, and their abandoning 
it was an evident sign of their weakness and inability to defend their 
other approaches to Richmond. As to the battle at Pittsburg Land- 
ing, 1 it would appear the plan of the rebels was admirably conceived, 
and would have been successful but for the presence of our gunboats. 
Finding they could not get to the river in consequence of these vessels, 
and that the success of their plan was impracticable, they very prop- 
erly retired to their fortifications at Corinth. Hence, although they 
were checked and defeated in the object they had in view, yet it was 
not a triumphant victory on our side; for had the gunboats (against 
which they had no means of operating) not been present, they would 
have destroyed Grant the first day and Buell the second. 

Camp at Catlett's Station, April 19, 1862. 
My last letter was written from Manassas Junction. Yesterday 
we broke up that camp and marched to this point, which is twelve 
miles farther on the railroad from Alexandria to Gordonsville. I do 
not know the object of our being moved here, except that we are 
nearer the Rappahannock and Fredericksburg. The railroad we are 
on crosses the Rappahannock about fifteen miles from here. At this 
point the enemy have destroyed the bridge, and it is said have a force 
of some ten thousand behind earthworks, on the other side, deter- 
mined to prevent our rebuilding the bridge. Yesterday a brigade 

1 Same as battle at Shiloh. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 261 

under Abercrombie advanced to that point and exchanged artillery 
shots with the enemy, without injury to either side. Abercrombie is 
still there, and the railroad to that point is being repaired. When 
this is done, I suppose we will be pushed forward and the enemy dis- 
lodged from the other side, unless in the meantime it is determined to 
go from here to Fredericksburg, which is only twenty-eight miles from 
here. McDowell went yesterday to Washington, intending to go 
down to Acquia Creek, and sent from hence under Augur a brigade 
of infantry and two regiments of cavalry to Fredericksburg. At 
Falmouth, a place on the Rappahannock, some five miles from Fred- 
ericksburg, and where there was a bridge, our advance of cavalry was 
fired upon from an ambuscade and some twenty-two saddles emptied, 
Bayard (the colonel in command) having his horse shot under him, 
but he was not touched. Our men charged and drove the enemy (a 
Mississippi regiment) before them and over the bridge, which they 
set fire to in their retreat; but our people were in time to extinguish 
the fire and save a great portion of the structure. I have always 
believed they would resist our advance on Richmond, and have no 
doubt by the time we get across the Rappahannock, whether we cross 
at Fredericksburg or at the railroad crossing near here, that they will 
have assembled a force sufficiently large to give us all the glory we 
want in overcoming it. 

Sunday, April 20, 1862. 

You will already see by what I have written yesterday, that the 
prospect of our having work before us is quite good, in fact that two 
portions of our force — Abercrombie's brigade and Bayard's cavalry — 
have had a brush with the enemy, and from all I can learn, they are 
determined to dispute our passage of the Rappahannock and advance 
therefrom on Richmond. 

I have my headquarters in a house in which a poor man with 
eight children is living. Some of these little ones are pretty and in- 
telligent, and bring to mind my own dear little ones, from whom I 
am separated. I have ridden all about the country in this neigh- 
borhood, posting pickets and outguards. The country is very beau- 
tiful, but it makes one's heart sad to see the desolation and destruc- 
tion produced by the war. Handsome farms abandoned by their 
owners, left to a few negroes, the houses gutted, furniture broken and 
scattered all over, fences burned up, and destruction everywhere. 
Sometimes I fancy the great object in sending McDowell this way, 



262 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

is that the country may be laid waste, and the negroes all freed. 
Such certainly is the practical result of the movement, whether de- 
signed or not, and as there is no other apparent object, it is reasonable 
to infer this is the one designed. McDowell has not yet returned 
from his trip to Acquia Creek and Fredericksburg, and we shall have 
to await his return before our movements will be decided on. 



Camp at Catlett's Station, Friday, April 25, 1862. 

Since I wrote, the whole of King's division has gone down to Fal- 
mouth, opposite Fredericksburg, and to-day orders were given for 
Reynolds to move down there with his brigade. I suppose I shall 
follow in a day or two, and that McDowell has at last got them in 
Washington to consent to let him concentrate his column at Freder- 
icksburg, and either threaten Richmond from that point, or what 
would be better, interpose between Richmond and Yorktown, cut- 
ting off the communications of the army at the latter place. What I 
have been fearing, was that Banks would allow himself to be decoyed 
so far up the valley of the Shenandoah, that when they threw a 
superior force on him, we would be rushed across to his assistance. 
I see by the papers received to-day, that he has got as far as Harri- 
sonburg, about twelve miles from Staunton; the latter being the 
point that Fremont is aiming at. If Banks and Fremont unite, they 
will be strong enough. 

The papers say the Merrimac is ready to come out again; which I 
think is the best thing that can happen, as until the question of her 
supremacy is settled, we will be hampered at Yorktown. Let her be 
captured or sunk; when our gunboats will be free to operate on the 
James and York Rivers, taking the enemy's works in flank and rear, 
which now we cannot do for fear of the Merrimac. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, April 30, 1862. 
We arrived here yesterday afternoon, after a two-days' march 
from our last camp at Catlett's Station. We were very glad to re- 
ceive our orders, because I began to fear we should be kept in the 
rear, repairing and guarding railroads. We had a pleasant march, 
over a pretty fair country, but pretty generally abandoned by its 
inhabitants, particularly the male portion. The last day (yester- 
day) we marched twenty-two miles, and our men came in good con- 
dition. Reynolds had preceded me, and Ord, I presume, will follow 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 263 

in a day or two. We are now encamped on the bank of the Rappa- 
hannock, directly opposite the town of Fredericksburg. We are some 
twenty thousand strong, but as yet no one has crossed the river, 
except some flags of truce, holding intercourse with the municipal 
authorities. We have a pontoon train, and could throw a bridge 
over in a few hours, but it is rumored McDowell's orders are not to 
cross, for what reason is not known. To-be-sure, the railroad from 
Acquia Creek is not yet rebuilt to this place, and we have to haul 
our supplies some eight miles in wagons, and it may be that it is not 
deemed worth while to move forward until the road is repaired and 
we can communicate freely with our rear. We have received the 
news of the fall of New Orleans, which caused much rejoicing, and 
of the death of General Smith, which was received with deep regret 
by all those who knew him. 

McDowell has his headquarters back at Acquia Creek Station. 
He was in camp to-day with Lord George Paulet, commander of the 
English forces at Montreal, and did me the honor to call at my 
quarters and introduce his lordship, which was not necessary, how- 
ever, as I had met him in 1842 in Quebec, when I was there with 
Graham and Schroeder. 

The people that are living around here are all pretty strongly 
tinctured with "Secesh." The men are away, and the women are as 
rude as their fears will permit them to be. 

Dr. Meredith Clymer has joined our division, with the expecta- 
tion of being medical director, and being at Division Headquarters, 
but as he is junior to Stocker, the arrangement cannot very well be 
made, and I expect Stocker will go to McCall and Clymer come to me. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, May 5, 1862. 
I am very glad you saw Mrs. McClellan and were pleased with 
her. Although I don't think General McClellan thought much of 
me after I was appointed, yet I am quite sure my appointment was 
due to him, and almost entirely to him. At that time his will was 
omnipotent and he had only to ask and it was given. He told me 
himself that he had simply presented my name to the President, to 
which I replied that I considered that the same as appointing me; 
which I do, and for which I am not only grateful but proud, being 
prouder of such an appointment than if all the politicians in the 
country had backed me. 

Since writing you, great events have taken place. Fort Macon 



264 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

fallen, New Orleans taken, and now we hear Yorktown and the 
Peninsula are evacuated. 

I believe our movement to this place has been magnified, and 
they saw the danger to their rear and got away before it was too late. 
I think I wrote you, when in Alexandria, that this was the place for 
us to come to, and never could understand what we were sent to 
Manassas for, except because the enemy had been there before us. 
Great efforts are being made to repair the railroad, so as to bring up 
supplies, and I think we will be pushed on as fast as the road is 
completed. 

McClellan will push on from West Point, at the head of York 
River, from whence there is also a railroad. He has a shorter dis- 
tance, only forty miles, and we have sixty, but he will have one hun- 
dred thousand men to move and we only forty thousand, so that we 
will progress about evenly. We don't know whether they intend to 
abandon Virginia entirely, or whether they have only withdrawn 
from the Peninsula, between the York and James Rivers, and have 
taken up a position nearer Richmond. 

Day before yesterday General McDowell invited me to meet at 
his quarters the Secretaries of State, Treasury and War, all of whom 
had come on a trip from Washington, and whom he very judiciously 
put into a wagon and drove them over the fifteen miles of road from 
Acquia Creek to this place, during which ride they were almost 
jolted to death and their lives endangered, owing to the dreadful con- 
dition of the road. He said to them : " Gentlemen, you can see for 
yourselves the character of the roads we have to draw our artillery 
and supplies over, and I assure you they are infinitely better now 
than they have been at any previous period of our operations since 
the frost began to leave the ground." I was introduced to all of 
them and they were quite civil. I did not recall to Mr. Chase's 1 
recollection that I was a ci-devant pupil of his, not knowing how such 
reminiscences might be taken. After lunch we all crossed the river 
on a boat-bridge we have built, and took a turn through Fredericks- 
burg. The place seemed deserted by all who could get away, there 
being but few white people, and they mostly old women and chil- 
dren. There are some very pretty residences in the town, though we 
only saw the outside of them. The papers will have informed you 
that Ord has been made a major general. They also state he is to 
have this division, but I think that is a mistake. The idea that 
1 Secretary of the treasury. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 265 

McCall will voluntarily retire is absurd, and I don't see how with 
any show of justice they can put him aside. 

Camp near Fredericksburg, May 10, 1862. 

The recent act of Congress in reference to command of troops is, 
I understand, construed by the Secretary of War into an entire 
destruction of rank in the army. It is now decided that the Secre- 
tary can put any officer wherever he pleases, over the heads of his 
seniors, and no one has the right, or will be permitted, to protest or 
contest this right. Ord has been made a major general for his Dranes- 
ville fight, and if McCall is superseded, I think it probable Ord will 
be given this division. I think the promotion of Ord just and de- 
served; for if I had had the good luck to have been in command at 
Dranesville, I should have claimed the benefit of it. War is a game 
of chance, and besides the chances of service, the accidents and luck 
of the field, in our army, an officer has to run the chances of having 
his political friends in power, or able to work for him. First we 
had Cameron, Scott (General), with Thomas (adjutant general) and 
McDowell, who ruled the roost, distributed appointments and favors. 
Bull Run put Scott's and McDowell's noses out of joint, and brought 
in McClellan. Then Stanton took Cameron's place, fell out with 
McClellan, whose nose was therefore put out of joint, and now 
McDowell again turns up, and so it goes on from one to another. A 
poor devil like myself, with little merit and no friends, has to stand 
aside and see others go ahead. Upon the whole, however, I have 
done pretty well, and ought not to complain. 

Of course you have exulted over McClellan's successful dislodg- 
ment of the enemy at Yorktown and his brilliant pursuit of and de- 
feat of them at Williamsburg. To-day we hear his gunboats have 
gone up the James River, and we now look forward to his beating 
them back from the Chickahominy and forcing them to fight, either 
at Richmond, or to abandon that place and Virginia. His progress 
has been so rapid that it seems useless for us to do any more work 
on the railroad on this line, and I look daily for orders for our column 
to take shipping at Acquia Creek and go down to West Point to rein- 
force McClellan. There is where we ought always to have been, and 
there is where we ought now to go. As it is, we are hard at work 
rebuilding the railroad to this point, and will have to do it all the 
way hence to Richmond, fifty-five miles. They have a force in our 
front some twelve miles off, and say they are going to fight us; but 



266 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

McClellan's operations will stop all that, and they will be out of our 
way before we can get at them. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, May 14, 1862. 

Last Sunday the enemy, who have some force in our front on the 
other side of the river, advanced to our picket line, I suppose to see 
what we were doing. They were well received by a portion of Gen- 
eral Patrick's brigade, stationed on the other side, and driven back, 
with the loss of one officer and twelve men. One of the generals in 
front of us is named Field, whom perhaps you may remember as 
being stationed at West Point. He was a large man and distin- 
guished for sporting an immense shirt collar, a la Byron. He was 
married to quite a pretty little woman, whose sister, Miss Mason, 
was staying with them. This Miss Mason afterwards married Lieu- 
tenant Collins, of the Topogs. (your relative). Their mother, Mrs. 
Mason, is now at Fredericksburg, but her daughters are with their 
husbands, Field, a general in our front, and Collins, an Engineer, 
who has gone to Brazil. General Ricketts has joined, having been 
assigned to one of the brigades of the new division we are to have. 
He has a staff of Philadelphians — one of Julia Fisher's sons, John 
Williams, young Richards (son of Benj. W.) and I believe others. 
Colonel LylesV regiment is in his brigade, and I believe he has other 
Pennsylvania troops. 

I hear the reaction in favor of McClellan since he has had some 
men killed is very great, and that even Greeley 2 has begun to praise 
him. Poor Mac, if he is in this strait, he is in a pretty bad way! 
Greeley's enmity he might stand, but his friendship will kill him. I 
am afraid Richmond will be taken before we get there. 

I have not seen the death of Huger 3 positively announced in the 
papers; all I have seen was that he was badly wounded. But he 
does not seem to have been made prisoner. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, May 19, 1862. 
I hardly know when I last wrote to you, though I know it has 
been several days longer than I intended; but I have recently been 
on a Court of Inquiry, and to-day my brigade was reviewed and 

1 Peter Lyles, colonel 90th Regt., Pa. Vols. 

2 Horace Greeley, editor New York Tribune. 

3 Thomas B. Huger, brother-in-law of General Meade, in the Confederate 
army. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 267 

inspected by Inspector General Van Rensselaer; so that I have 
been so busy as to have been prevented from writing to you. 

McDowell has been to Washington, but what has occurred is un- 
known. McCall is not to be disturbed, at least at present. Ord has 
been assigned to the new division of which Hartranft, Ricketts and 
Bayard are the brigadiers. 

The cars are running to the river, and the bridge for the railroad 
is nearly completed. We now await the arrival of General Shields's 
division, when I suppose we will start for Richmond. We hear noth- 
ing of McClellan, beyond the fact that he has rested from pushing 
the enemy to the wall. Things are coming to a focus, both at Rich- 
mond and at Corinth. If we should be successful at both places, I 
think the South had better give it up, though there is no telling what 
they will do or what we will have to do. Subjugation is very easy 
to talk about, but not quite so easy to execute. All we can do is to 
be patient and await coming events. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, May 23, 1862. 
To-day we had a visit from the President and the Secretary of 
War, in anticipation of an immediate forward movement. This after- 
noon these gentlemen reviewed our division, and as the cortege passed 
my brigade, I joined it, and found among them my friend Mr. Mercier, 
the French Minister. I observed to him, in a joking way, that all 
Europe, as well as this country, were talking of his visit to Richmond. 
"Yes," he replied, "and both parties attaching an importance which 
it utterly wants, for it had no political object whatever. " Previous 
to the review I had been at General McDowell's headquarters, and 
there saw the President. I took the liberty of saying to him that I 
believed the army was much gratified to see his recent proclamation 
in regard to Hunter's order. He expressed himself gratified for the 
good opinion of the army, and said: "I am. trying to do my duty, 
but no one can imagine what influences are brought to bear on me." 
I believe the party returned to Washington this evening, having come 
down last night. General Shields, with his division, reached here 
yesterday, so that McDowell's corps of four divisions (about forty 
thousand) are all assembled, and we expect now to be off in a day or 
two to Richmond. Whether we will be too late and McClellan ahead 
of us, is not to be told. I rather think he will await our approach, 
as from all I can learn the enemy at present outnumber him, and our 
force will be a very welcome addition to his army. It is impossible 



268 LIFE AND LETTERS OP GENERAL MEADE 

to tell whether we shall meet with any resistance before we get to 
the immediate vicinity of Richmond or not. They certainly have a 
force about fifteen miles from here, said to be twenty thousand strong; 
but whether they are designed only to watch us and to retreat before 
us, or whether they will be reinforced and give us battle at this place, 
are questions that time only can solve. I should think the former, 
inasmuch as it would be very dangerous for them to leave a force so 
far in front of Richmond, with McClellan so near, cutting off their 
retreat, and we pressing them in front. I therefore hardly expect 
much opposition till we get close to Richmond and in communication 
with McClellan, where I expect they will give us a big fight just out- 
side the city and do their best to drive us away. If McClellan can 
see his way clear, and thinks he can get into Richmond without our 
co-operation, he will be greatly tempted to try it. At the last ac- 
counts he was only eight miles off, and could have a fight any hour 
he advanced. His troops were nearly all up, and he had almost com- 
pleted the repairs to the railroad from West Point, by which he 
expected to draw his supplies. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, May 27, 1862. 
Yesterday General Reynolds's brigade was moved over the river 
to occupy the town of Fredericksburg, and we changed our camp to 
near the bridges, so that, in case of necessity, we could be rapidly 
thrown over. Although we only marched three or four miles, yet a 
thorough change of camp is always a great job, for notwithstanding 
we are prepared to move at any time, still we stick our stakes so 
firmly in the ground, when we do halt, that it is a labor to pull them 
up. McDowell left last night for Washington, where they appear to 
be paralyzed with fear at the audacity of the enemy falling on Banks 
with a superior force. It is whispered that McDowell was peremp- 
torily ordered to return to Manassas and Alexandria, and to estab- 
lish his headquarters at Washington City. He immediately took a 
train for Washington to enter his protest against such an injudicious 
move, and urge his being reinforced and authorized to move on. It 
was only the other day the Government disbanded two regiments of 
Indiana volunteers, who being twelve-months , men, their time had 
expired. These men were willing and desirous of re-enlisting for the 
war, but the Department refused to re-enlist, saying the Government 
had more men in service than it really needed. To-day they are 
crying out for any one to come to Washington to save them. The 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 269 

truth is, we must expect disaster, so long as the armies are not under 
one master mind. In nothing is the old adage so fully verified as in 
matters military, " that too many cooks spoil the broth. The enemy 
by their razzia (as I think it is called) sometimes raid or foray against 
Banks, have most beautifully succeeded in knocking all McDowell's 
plans into a cocked hat, and now they are at leisure, so far as any 
co-operation from this army (for it was an army) is concerned, to do 
what they please against McClellan. I hope the latter will be able 
to drive them from Richmond, when perhaps the Government may 
for awhile be easy on the score of Washington. From all appearances, 
we will have to remain here, if not fall back to Manassas and Alex- 
andria. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, May 30, 1862. 
It would appear from your letter that the Great Stampede, or, 
as it is called, the "Third Uprising of the North," had not reached 
2037 Pine Street 1 on the 25th instant, though it must have been in 
the city at the time. We, who are in the midst of the troubles and 
dangers, are greatly amused to see the terrible excitement produced 
in Philadelphia, New York and Boston by the inglorious retreat of 
Banks before a force but little larger than his own. McDowell has 
gone to Manassas, and has taken every one with him except our divi- 
sion, who have now the honor of holding Fredericksburg and the 
railroad from thence to Acquia Creek. Had not the enemy, in antic- 
ipation and fear of our advance, destroyed all the bridges on the 
rail and other roads between this point and a place some ten miles 
this side of Richmond, thus preventing their advance rapidly, as well 
as ours, I should look, now that we are reduced to one division (about 
ten thousand men), to their concentrating and coming down suddenly 
on us. This is their true game, from which they will perhaps be di- 
verted by McDowell's movements, and their own work — placing ob- 
structions to their rapid movements. At the latest accounts they 
had all retired from our front and gone back either to Richmond or 
Gordonsville. Still, they are much more enterprising than we are, 
and we are on the lookout all the time. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, May 31, 1862. 
Yesterday General McDowell (who has gone after the enemy who 
drove Banks back) telegraphed to General McCall to draw all his 

1 Home of General Meade's family. 



270 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

troops over to this side, except such guards as were necessary to keep 
Fredericksburg quiet and to watch the roads leading into it, and be 
prepared to act on the defensive. To-day we had intelligence from 
contrabands that a force was collecting at Spottsylvania Court House, 
about twelve miles on the other side of the river; so McCall, to carry 
out his instructions and be prepared, ordered Reynolds's brigade back 
on this side of the river. This movement, somehow or other, was 
distorted and magnified, most probably by the telegraph operators, 
who keep up a chattering among themselves; for this evening McCall 
got a despatch from the President, inquiring by whose authority he 
was retreating from Fredericksburg; also one from Mr. Stanton, tell- 
ing him the news of Shields's victory at Front Royal, and begging 
him not to let any discredit fall on his division. A person who was 
at Acquia Creek to-day said it was reported through the operators 
that the enemy had crossed above us, and that we were retreating 
in disorder. Of course this canard went up to Washington and was 
carried to the President. The truth is, we have been left here with 
too small a force (ten thousand men and thirty pieces of artillery); 
but McClellan at Richmond and McDowell in the Valley of the 
Shenandoah will keep all the troops they have busy, and they will 
hardly be able to bring a sufficiently large force to threaten us. We 
are, however, prepared for them; but at present all is quiet. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, June 1, 1862. 
Your letter of the 29th came to-day, and I should judge from its 
tenor that the stampede in Philadelphia this day (Sunday) week must 
have been pretty great. It does seem to me strange that sensible 
people can be so carried away by their fears as to lose all their rea- 
soning powers. How could the enemy, even supposing their forces 
amounted to the exaggerated numbers stated — namely, thirty thou- 
sand — injure Washington, when Banks had ten thousand, there were 
twenty thousand in and around Washington, and we had here within 
a few hours' call forty thousand, to say nothing of the numbers that 
could be sent in a few hours from the Northern cities? As it is, the 
boldness and temerity of the enemy will probably result in their dis- 
comfiture, for McDowell is in their rear with thirty thousand men, 
and Banks, largely reinforced, is in their front, and it will be hard 
work to get themselves out of our clutches, if our people are as quick 
in their movements as they should be. Last night Mr. Assistant 
Secretary Scott made his appearance, to inquire into the canard 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 271 

(telegraphed to Washington by the operators), that the enemy were 
advancing and we retreating. He stayed several hours with McCall, 
and among other things told him, "it was thought in Washington 
(that is, Mr. Stanton thought) that if McClellan would fight he would 
win. That his delay was exhausting and weakening his army, while 
the enemy were all the time being reinforced." 

Do you see how handsomely Kearney speaks of Poe at Williams- 
burgh? 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, June 3, 1862. * ! 

Everything is very quiet in this vicinity; all reports of the ap- 
proach of the enemy seem to have subsided. The news of the at- 
tempt to break through McClellan's line is looked upon as favor- 
able, inasmuch as the attacking party, having the selection of time 
and place, could and should have concentrated superior numbers; 
their failure to succeed proves either their weakness or our superior 
prowess. 1 I have no doubt McClellan has been most urgently de- 
manding reinforcements, and that he looked with the greatest anx- 
iety for McDowell's support. Indeed, his movement on Hanover 
Court House plainly indicated his expectation and desire to hasten 
the opening of communication with McDowell. I must do the lat- 
ter the justice to say that he has all along seen the false position he 
was in, and has been most anxious to join McClellan, and was as 
much annoyed as any one when he was ordered to return to Banks's 
aid. The evacuation of Corinth is unintelligible to me, unless the 
approach of the gunboats towards Memphis and the destruction 
of the bridge on the Mobile and Corinth Road by Colonel Ellicott, 
proved to Beauregard that his communications were in danger and 
starvation threatened him. 

I see an order just published, placing all the troops east of the 
Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad, and those at Old Point, 
again under McClellan's command. This is a retrograde step in the 
right direction, and will enable him to control our movements and 
those of General Dix (who goes to Fortress Monroe), and make them 
harmonize with his own. If McDowell can only defeat and capture 
Jackson, and return here in time to advance on Richmond, Dix go 
up the James or Appomattox River and seize Petersburg, we will 
have them in a pretty tight place, and one victory in our favor would 
settle the campaign. As it is, scattered and divided, no one can tell 
what will happen or what combinations occur. 

1 Battle of Fair Oaks or Seven Pines, Va., May 31 to June 1, 1862. 



272 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, June 6, 1862. 

You will see that Jackson has escaped up the Valley of the Shen- 
andoah, in spite of the various arrangements made to cut off his re- 
treat. From all I can learn, the force sent from here under McDowell 
was not as rapid in its movements as it might have been. It ought 
to have pushed on from Front Royal to Strasburg, and not waited, 
as it would seem it did, till it had news that Jackson was falling back 
from Strasburg. We have had a continuous rain storm, part of the 
time very violent; the consequence has been the same here as with 
you in Pennsylvania — a great freshet in the Rappahannock, which 
carried away all the bridges we had built over the river, including 
the railroad bridge. To rebuild this will take some two weeks, dur- 
ing which time we shall be tied down here. When they were first 
carried away (day before yesterday) all communication was cut off 
with the town, in which were some six hundred of our people; but as 
we had intelligence that day that the force in our front had fallen 
back to Richmond, we did not feel much concerned about our men. 
Now we have a little steam tug that ferries across, and we will throw 
over a pontoon bridge as soon as the river subsides. I have been for 
several days on a court martial which occupies me from ten in the 
morning to five in the afternoon. 

I am truly sorry to hear that John Markoe has been again 
wounded. Do you remember General Palmer? He is reported killed, 
but I hope it is a mistake. General Howard you must also remember, 
at West Point. 

Camp below Fredericksburg, June 11, 1862. 
Day before yesterday, General McCall received orders for his 
division to join General McClellan, to go by water down the Rappa- 
hannock and up the York River to the White House. Soon after 
the arrival of the transports at a point on the river some six miles 
below Fredericksburg was announced to him, and he immediately 
sent Reynolds and myself, with our commands, down here to em- 
bark. Reynolds has gone with all his command, and nearly all of 
mine has gone. I should myself have been off, but just as I was 
preparing to leave, General McCall made his appearance with his 
staff, and took up all the room that was left, and compelled me to 
remain here with my staff, separated from my command, to await 
either additional transportation or the return of those that had gone. 
I cannot tell now when I shall get away. All the vessels that were 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 273 

sent at first are gone; if others are being sent, I shall be off on the 
first that comes. But if it is not intended to send any more, and I 
have to await the return of those gone, it will be several days, per- 
haps a week, before I can rejoin my command. In the meantime, 
McClellan's pressure for troops may require him to send my brigade 
to the front, under the command of the next in rank. It is impos- 
sible for me to tell you how much I have been worried by this. Per- 
haps a vessel may come up some time to-day, and matters turn out 
better than I expect. 

I think now it will not be long before our division will be in the 
presence of the enemy; being fresh troops, we will of course be sent 
to the front to relieve those who have been so long exposed. I un- 
derstand very large reinforcements have been ordered to McClellan 
at last, in response to his urgent and repeated calls for them. It is 
rumored that the whole of McDowell's corps, except Shields (who 
remains with Banks), has been ordered, and some of the captains of 
the steamers recently here said that our twenty thousand men had 
reached him before they left, showing the Administration have at 
last come to their senses, brought thereto, doubtless, by a fear that 
a large part of Beauregard's army is coming from Corinth to Rich- 
mond. 

I suppose you have noted in the papers that Colonel Kane has 
been made a prisoner, also Captain Taylor, of the same regiment, 
who is a very clever gentleman. I expected Kane, who has been 
thirsting for fame, would get himself in some such scrape, and there- 
fore am not greatly surprised at its occurrence. 

P. S.— June 11, 5 P. M. 
I am glad to say several fine transports have arrived, and I expect 
to be off early to-morrow morning. As this has relieved me greatly, 
I have opened my letter to announce it. 

Camp at Railroad Crossing of the Chickahominy, June 14, 1862. 
After writing my last letter, I was very busy employed in loading 
up the vessels with my train of wagons and ambulances. We got 
off in good time, and after a pleasant trip down the Rappahannock, 
we entered the York River and ascended it and the Pamunky to the 
celebrated White House, the estate of General Lee's son (Turnbull's 
old friend). We reached the White House this morning and found 
great excitement existing, from the fact that the enemy had the au- 



274 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

dacity to show themselves along the line of the railroad, and finding 
two of our vessels in the Pamunky River, beyond the reach of any 
defense, they seized them, murdered the crews and burned them. 
This foray was accomplished, as far as I can ascertain, by some 
sixty or seventy mounted men, who made this bold and audacious 
move, having pretty certain information that being so far to the 
rear, we were perfectly secure and hence unguarded. The rascals 
were completely successful in every particular, except their attempt 
to capture my brigade train, which was on the road, guarded by a 
company of the Fourth Regiment. The company formed a line and 
prepared to receive the gentlemen, which caused them to hesitate 
and finally retire. What they did, however, made a great rumpus, 
and was terribly magnified by the time it reached our steamer, an- 
chored some ten miles below the White House. As soon as I could 
find where my command was, I started off with my staff and escort, 
and the escort of General McCall, which he had left for me to bring 
on. I reached here about 3 P. M., and found the brigade encamped 
just before crossing the Chickahominy. Last night it was under 
orders to move forward, but the raid of the guerillas changed the 
programme, and Reynolds was ordered back with part of his brigade 
to guard the depot at the White House, and the railroad leading this 
way. 

I have fortunately joined my command before they have been 
called into action, which I was a little nervous about. McClellan's 
headquarters are about four miles from here. 

Kuhn saw Alexander Wilcox, who is here on the Sanitary Com- 
mission, and is on board a fine steamer, where, as we passed this 
morning, I saw numerous young ladies, in English hats, etc., very 
stylish, apparently having a nice time with several men. I was told 
this was the sanitary ship, and these were volunteer nurses. I 
thought at first it was a picnic. 

It is all quiet in front at this hour, 6 P. M., but no one can tell 
when the ball may be opened by either side. I think in a day or 
two we shall go to the front, and then will commence the reality of 
war. 

Camp near the Chickahominy, June 17, 1862. 
To-day we hear very heavy firing in the direction of Fort Darling 
on the James River, and we presume the gunboats are engaging the 
batteries on the river; though I understood from Commodore Dahl- 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 275 

gren, whom I met at Fredericksburg, that the gunboats could not 
pass the obstructions in the river at Fort Darling, the enemy having 
pretty much destroyed the navigation, which it would take a long 
time to correct by removing the vessels and rocks, etc., which have 
been sunk and thrown in. I learned very little at headquarters yes- 
terday. I think McClellan is awaiting the arrival of all his rein- 
forcements, before pushing his lines any farther forward, or making 
any grand attack. In the meantime the enemy is busily at work 
fortifying all the approaches to the city, and without doubt will make 
a most vigorous and desperate resistance to our advance. McClel- 
lan, I understand, is in good spirits and confident of success, which 
I most sincerely trust he may attain. Our division remains where 
it was first posted, just behind the Chickahominy at the railroad 
crossing, where it is understood we will remain for a few days, as it 
is a good position for defending the railroad, and from whence we 
can readily be sent to reinforce any part of the line that may be 
suddenly attacked. From what I can gather, the taking of Rich- 
mond will be the work of time, by our slowly but gradually and surely 
advancing, until we get near enough to make a final assault. In this 
operation we shall, of course, have frequent skirmishes, and now and 
then big battles, like the recent one at Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines, as 
it is sometimes called, where they thought they had a fine chance 
to cut off our left wing, isolated from the rest of the army by the 
sudden rising of the Chickahominy. Unfortunately for their calcu- 
lations, our bridges stood the freshet, and our communication was 
not cut off, enabling us to meet their attack and repulse it. 

Camp near "New Bridge," June 18, 1862. 
Late last night orders came for our division to march at early 
daylight this morning, which we did, arriving here about 11 A. M., 
and relieving Slocum's (formerly Franklin's) division, being thus 
posted on the extreme right flank of our army and in the front. 
The enemy are in plain view of our picket line, we holding here the 
left bank of the Chickahominy, and they the opposite one. There 
is quite a wide bottom and swamp between the two banks, but our 
respective pickets are within musket range of each other. But shots 
are not exchanged unless there is a collection on either side, looking 
like an advance or a working party. The "New Bridge," as it is 
called, you have doubtless seen mentioned and referred to in the 
newspapers. It is the bridge by which one of the main roads into 



276 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Richmond crosses the Chickahominy. We hold the approaches on 
this side, the enemy on the other. They are throwing up earth- 
works to prevent our crossing, and all the afternoon our batteries 
have been shelling their working parties, and they have been shelling 
our batteries, with I fancy no damage on either side. The "New 
Bridge " is only five miles from Richmond, and from the high grounds 
near our camp we can plainly discern the spires of the Sacred City. 
To-morrow Reynolds and Seymour go to Mechanicsville, which is a 
little higher up the river and about four and a half miles from the 
city. Immediately adjoining our camp we have Fitz-John Porter's 
corps, in which General Morell now commands a division. Stone- 
man's division of cavalry is also in our vicinity, as well as Sykes's 
brigade of regulars. Willie 1 has been with me all the afternoon. He 
looks very well — better than he did at Alexandria. 

Did you see in the papers of the 12th the instructions of Joe 
Johnston to Stonewall Jackson? I hope you have, for they most 
singularly confirm my expressed views of the object of Jackson's raid. 
Johnston tells him that anything he can do, either to prevent rein- 
forcements reaching McClellan or to withdraw any portion of his 
force, will be of inestimable service; suggests his attacking either 
McDowell or Banks — whichever he thinks most practicable — and says 
it is reported McDowell is about advancing on Richmond, which he, 
Johnston, thinks extremely probable. You see how completely Jack- 
son succeeded in carrying out these, by paralyzing McDowell's force 
of forty thousand men, through the stupidity of the authorities at 
Washington becoming alarmed and sending McDowell on a wild- 
goose chase after a wily foe, who never intended to be caught in a 
trap, and was prepared to back out so soon as his plans proved suc- 
cessful. I must do McDowell the justice to say that he saw this 
himself, but no protest on his part could shake the strategy of the 
War Department. 

We are so near the enemy that we hear their bands distinctly at 
tattoo and parade. On our side no drums, bugles or bands are al- 
lowed, except to announce the approach of the enemy. I can hardly 
tell you how I felt this afternoon, when the old familiar sound of the 
heavy firing commenced. I thought of you and the dear children — 
of how much more I have to make me cling to life than during the 
Mexican War; I thought, too, of how I was preserved then and since 
in many perilous times through God's mercy and will, and prayed 
1 William Sergeant, brother of Mrs. Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 277 

He would continue His gracious protection to me, and in His own 
good time restore me to you, or if this was not His will, and it was 
decreed that I was to be summoned, that He would forgive me, for 
His Son's sake, the infinite number of sins I have all my life been 
committing. You see, I do not shut my eyes to the contingencies of 
the future, but I look upon them with a hopeful eye and a firm reli- 
ance on the mercy of my heavenly Father. It is now 10 o'clock at 
night, dark and rainy. All is quiet in both camps, and the immense 
hosts arrayed against each other are, doubtless, quietly and peace- 
fully sleeping, unless some one with thoughts like those I have ex- 
pressed has a disturbing conscience. 

Camp near New Bridge, Va., June 20, 1862. 
To-day we have had a little excitement. Our camp is on the 
edge of a small strip of woods that fringes the Valley of the Chicka- 
hominy. The enemy occupy the heights on the opposite side, where 
they are busily throwing up fortifications, to dispute our advance. 
Our people very foolishly, as I thought, undertook to interrupt their 
work by shelling their works. For a day or two they were quite 
quiet and let us have it all our own way, but this morning they 
opened on us with heavy guns at long range, and pretty soon gave 
us evidence that two could play at this game. Their fire was at first 
directed against our batteries, but my men, notwithstanding I had 
cautioned them to stay in camp and not expose themselves to the 
view of the enemy, would rush through the woods into the open 
ground beyond, to stare about like idiots. The enemy, seeing the 
crowd, soon ascertained our position, and moving one of their long- 
range guns, began throwing shot and shell right into our camp, scat- 
tering the curious gentlemen and giving them a pretty good scare. 
Fortunately no one was hurt, though the shell fell all around. I went 
in amongst them and remonstrated with them for their disobedience 
of orders, which had brought this on them, and after letting them 
stand the fire till they were pretty well subdued, I moved the camp 
to another position, and all has since been quiet. 

Camp near New Bridge, Va., June 22, 1862. 
I yesterday rode over to headquarters and saw McClellan. While 
with him Franklin and Baldy Smith came in, and I had a very pleas- 
ant visit. McClellan has been a little under the weather, but is now 
well and looks very well and is in good spirits. He talked very freely 



278 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

of the way in which he had been treated, and said positively that had 
not McDowell's corps been withdrawn, he would long before now 
have been in Richmond. Last night we heard from a deserter that 
we were to be attacked to-day. We were all under arms before day- 
break, but everything has been quiet up to this moment, (9 A. M.). 
I suppose you have heard of William Palmer's death. They 
seemed to be quite shocked at it at headquarters, as he had left 
only about a week ago, sick, but not considered dangerously so. 
Poor fellow! his death makes me a Major of Topogs. 

Camp near New Bridge, Va., June 24, 1862. 

We have been in a pleasant state of excitement for the last twenty- 
four hours, under the impression that the enemy were disposed to at- 
tack our right flank in force, in which case the first onset would be 
received by our division. The result of this little expectation is our 
being under arms from before daylight (3 A. M.) till nightfall, and 
the almost total destruction of one's rest at night by constant and 
frequent orders, messages, etc., occurring from hour to hour. The 
trouble about the whole thing is that the men become wearied with 
these constant stampedes, as they are called, and it becomes more 
and more difficult to get them out at any prescribed time, they say- 
ing, "Oh, it's the old cry of wolf!" and I am really afraid we shall 
carry out the old fable, and when the wolf does come, be unprepared. 
I don't intend, however, that such shall be the case with my com- 
mand, and am making myself very unpopular by insisting on the 
utmost vigilance and requiring all hands to be up and ready by day- 
light every morning, whether we have a stampede or not. 

Last evening Reynolds made a reconnoissance of the enemy's 
position, driving in their pickets, stirring them up generally and 
making them display their force. I think he had two or three men 
wounded in the affair. This morning all seems quiet, though late 
last night it was the impression of the superior officers on our side 
that we should be attacked. To be sure, there was a very heavy 
fall of rain during the night, overflowing the Chickahominy Swamp, 
and most probably preventing any attack, had they designed making 
one. 

Camp near New Bridge, Va., June 26, 1862. 
Everything is quiet on our part of the line. Yesterday Heintzel- 
man, on the left, made an advance, which of course was disputed, 




SEVEN -DAYS' BATTLES 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 279 

resulting in brisk skirmishing, with some loss in killed and wounded 
on both sides. Heintzelman gained his point, however, and main- 
tained it. We were under arms all day, ready to take part in a 
general action, if one should result. In the meantime, the batteries 
opposite to us have been throwing their shot and shell at us, but 
without inflicting any injury. There is a report that the great 
" Stonewall " Jackson with his army has left Gordonsville and is 
coming to Richmond, to turn our right flank. His withdrawal from 
the Valley of Virginia would indicate weakness of the army here, for 
he would never leave so important a field, and where he had been 
doing good service, unless it was a matter of great importance to 
strengthen their Richmond army. This report, in connection with 
the fact that they keep up a great drumming and bugling in front of 
us, to make us believe they are in great force, leads me to doubt 
whether their army is as strong as represented, and whether they 
do actually outnumber us, as some believe. 

I yesterday rode to the extreme right of our lines, where our cav- 
alry are stationed, watching the whole country, to apprise us of any 
advance. At one of the outposts, Reynolds, whom I was accom- 
panying on a tour of inspection, sent for the officer in command of 
the detachment to give him some instructions, when I found he was 
our old neighbor, Benoni Lockwood, who seemed really glad to see 
me. The adjutant of the Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry, now serv- 
ing with our division, is your relative, Will Biddle. The health of 
the army, at least of our division, is very fair — some little bilious 
attacks and diarrhoea, but nothing serious. We have an abundance 
of good food; no army in the world was ever better supplied and 
cared for than ours is, all reports to the contrary notwithstanding. 



This letter, which had hardly been mailed before " everything on 
our part of the line" became as unquiet as possible, was the last one 
written by General Meade until August 12, with the exception of a 
few lines on July 1 announcing his having been wounded the pre- 
vious evening. 

As this period includes what is known as the Seven Days' Battles, 
it becomes necessary, in default of General Meade's letters, to sup- 
ply the break in the narrative by a general account, up to the time 
of his being wounded, of the operations preceding August 12 of the 
division to which he was attached. It is therefore not to be re- 



280 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

garded as an account of the operations of the Army of the Potomac, 
except in so far as necessary to explain the part taken in them by 
the Pennsylvania Reserves. 

About mid-day of the 26th of June the division of Pennsylvania 
Reserves, commanded by General George A. McCall, which was on 
the extreme right of the army, had its advanced pickets at Meadow 
Bridge driven in. It became evident that the enemy was about 
advancing in force, and preparations were at once made to receive 
him. 

Toward three o'clock in the afternoon the enemy's columns ap- 
peared, and after driving back the small force of the Reserves sta- 
tioned in advance, at the village of Mechanicsville, formed line of 
battle in front of the position occupied by the main body of McCall's 
division, which was on the left bank of Beaver Dam Creek, and 
shortly afterward the battle of Mechanicsville began. The Federal 
line was held by the brigades of Generals Reynolds and Seymour, 
with the several batteries attached to the division distributed along 
the front. General Seymour, who was on the left, his left resting on 
the Chickahominy, and covering the road by Ellison's Mills, resisted 
all the efforts of the enemy to carry this part of the position. Gen- 
eral Reynolds, on the right of the line, also foiled every attempt to 
turn the position there, the success of the day being largely owing to 
his admirable disposition of his troops, and to his personal gallantry. 
The fighting fell entirely to these two brigades of the Pennsylvania 
Reserves, which not only repulsed but inflicted severe loss on the 
command of General A. P. Hill, with the whole of which, six brigades 
of his own division, and Ripley's brigade of General D. A. Hill's 
division, they were confronted. 

General Meade's brigade was moved up early in the day from 
its camp near New Bridge, but did not become directly engaged, 
being held in reserve; but his services are referred to by General 
McCall " as worthy of credit for the promptness and zeal with which 
he carried out all orders sent to him." The brigades of Generals 
Griffin and Martindale of Morell's division were also, late in the 
day, brought up to within supporting distance, but, with the excep- 
tion of two of Griffin's regiments, took no part in the action. 

During the time that the fight lasted, from three o'clock in the 
afternoon until nine at night, the enemy made repeated, vigorous, 
and determined efforts to force a passage of the creek by turning, 
first the right, and later the left flank, in all of which he signally 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 281 

failed, being repulsed with great slaughter. Owing to the admirable 
position of the Pennsylvania Reserves, their loss was very small. 

The movement of General Jackson's column on the right flank 
of the army having made the position on Beaver Dam Creek unten- 
able, at daylight, on the 27th, the division of Pennsylvania Reserves 
was, in obedience to orders, skilfully withdrawn to a position occu- 
pied by the remainder of its corps, the Fifth, near Gaines's Mill. 
Here, owing to its having been engaged with the enemy on the pre- 
ceding day, it was ordered by General Fitz-John Porter to form a 
second line, some six hundred yards in rear of his main line of battle. 

The battle of Gaines's Mill, which now followed, opened about 
two o'clock in the afternoon, by an attack on the centre of General 
Porter's position, and soon extended along the whole line. The as- 
saults of the enemy becoming more and. more persistent, and the 
engagement proportionately severe, about four o'clock the brigades 
of General McCall were ordered up to the front line, which was hard 
pressed, Generals Meade and Seymour being sent in on the left cen- 
tre, and General Reynolds further toward the right. From this time 
forward the battle raged furiously and with varying success. Gen- 
eral Meade's conduct was conspicuous as he led in succession the 
regiments of his command into the thickest of the fight at various 
points of the line where their services were most needed, in encour- 
aging his men and rallying those who became disorganized. 

On a call for reinforcements, later in the afternoon, General Slo- 
cum's division of Franklin's corps was crossed from the south side 
of the river and at once distributed along the line, relieving those 
regiments in the advance whose ammunition had been expended. 

About dusk the Federal troops, thoroughly exhausted by the un- 
equal struggle which for five hours they had gallantly maintained, 
were compelled to fall back, being borne down by the final and furi- 
ous onslaught of the whole Confederate line, now reinforced by Gen- 
eral Jackson's column, just arrived from the valley of the Shenandoah. 

On the evening of the 25th June, General Jackson had arrived at 
Ashland Station, on the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac 
Railroad. Leaving this point early the next morning, he had pushed 
forward, marching in a southeasterly direction, thus taking in rear 
all the positions of the Federal troops along the Chickahominy. 
Greatly delayed in this march, the evening of the 26th found him 
advanced only as far as Hundley's Corner, where he bivouacked for 
the night, and starting early on the 27th, he reached a point just 



282 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

north of Cold Harbor. He there turned to the right, and having 
formed a junction with the forces operating directly under General 
Lee, moved down on the Federal position at Gaines's Mill, compelling 
the Federal troops to fall back to a position nearer the Chickahominy, 
when the opportune arrival of reinforcements, consisting of Meagher's 
and French's brigades, from the other side of the river, checked the 
enemy's further advance, restored order, and enabled the troops of 
General Porter to reform their lines, night putting an end to the 
fight. 

The loss on both sides had been very heavy, the Pennsylvania 
Reserves especially suffering severely. One of General Meade's regi- 
ments, the Eleventh, together with the Second New Jersey, of Slo- 
cum's division, had continued gallantly fighting on the field, ignorant 
of the fact until too late that the rest of the line had retired; when, 
finding themselves entirely surrounded, they were compelled to sur- 
render. On the right, in the confusion of the conflict, General Rey- 
nolds, having been cut off with part of his command, had, while en- 
deavoring to make his way back, fallen into the hands of the enemy. 

That night the whole right wing of the army retreated to the 
south side of the Chickahominy, and burning the bridges in their 
rear, occupied the heights commanding the river. The Pennsylvania 
Reserves, with the rest of the troops, took position on Trent's Hills, 
where they remained during the 28th, and at eight o'clock on the 
evening of that day were ordered to escort the reserve artillery of 
the army, consisting of fifteen batteries, to the crossing of White 
Oak Swamp Creek. Owing to the roads being crowded with troops 
and trains, the march was slow and tedious, rendered doubly dis- 
agreeable by the rain, which fell continuously throughout the night, 
and not until daybreak did they reach Savage's Station, wet, weary, 
and hungry. Halting but a short time, they pushed forward, and 
it was well on toward noon before they arrived at the crossing at 
the creek. On reaching the other side, where the artillery was 
deemed secure, the division, with other troops, was ordered by Gen- 
eral McClellan into position on one of the numerous roads leading 
from Richmond, to repel any advance of the enemy from that direc- 
tion. 

On the morning of that day, the 29th, General Sumner had had 
an engagement with the enemy at Allen's Field, and later, Generals 
Sumner and Franklin had been engaged at Savage's Station. 

The Pennsylvania Reserves remained in position until five o'clock 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 283 

in the afternoon, guarding the approaches to the crossing of White 
Oak Swamp Creek, when, being relieved by other troops, crossing 
the creek, they were ordered to resume their line of march to the 
junction of the New Market and Quaker Roads. The accounts of 
this march are very confusing, and it is difficult to understand how 
this division, forming part of the Fifth Corps, with which it had 
marched that afternoon and certainly for a part of the night, was 
suffered to become separated from the corps, to wander off by itself, 
and eventually to be left behind. As far as can be gathered from 
the numerous conflicting accounts, it appears that after reaching the 
New Market or Long Bridge Road, the column turned to the right 
and marched in a westerly direction toward Richmond, passing be- 
yond the junction of the Quaker Road, seeking for a road farther to 
the west, which it was informed led into the Quaker Road. The night 
was intensely dark and the guide evidently ignorant of the way. 
Finally, General Meade, whose brigade was in the advance, became 
convinced that they had passed the road they were in search of, and 
were being led in the wrong direction. Upon his reporting these 
facts, about midnight the division was halted, and the men lay on 
their arms alongside the road until daylight. In the meantime, the 
remainder of the Fifth Corps had found its way into the Quaker 
Road and by that to Malvern Hill. 

In the early morning of the 30th the Pennsylvania Reserves re- 
traced their steps on the New Market Road until they had reached 
a point just in advance of a by-road leading to the Quaker Road, and 
distant over half a mile from the junction of the Quaker Road and 
the New Market Road, where they received orders to halt. 

Here it would be well to glance at the general disposition of the 
army on this day, if we would obtain a clear idea of the whole field 
of operations, and thereby of the relative position of the Pennsyl- 
vania Reserves to other bodies of troops, and its significance in the 
impending battle. 

General McClellan's efforts throughout the retreat had been di- 
rected to the concentration of the army and trains at some secure 
point on the James River. He had succeeded by dark of the 29th 
in safely passing the whole of his artillery and wagon trains through 
White Oak Swamp, and between that time and five o'clock in the 
morning of the 30th all the troops were across, and the bridge over 
the creek had been destroyed. 

In order to protect the immense and necessarily slow-moving 



284 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

trains, General McClellan posted his troops somewhat in advance 
of the only road then known to lead from White Oak Swamp to the 
James River, as it was along this road that the trains were to move 
on the line of retreat. The line from the Swamp to the James being 
too extended to be held in force, it was only the most vulnerable 
points that he purposed occupying. Franklin, with Smith's division 
of his own corps, Richardson's division of Sumner's corps, and Nag- 
lee's brigade, occupied the position covering the crossing at White 
Oak Bridge. To him was intrusted the duty of defending the pas- 
sage of the Swamp, and thus preventing the rest of the line from 
being taken in rear. Franklin's other division, that of Slocum, was 
posted on the right of the Charles City Road, covering that road, 
and its line extending to the marshy land bordering White Oak 
Swamp, thus also covering Franklin's left. Between the Charles 
City Road and the New Market Road was Kearney's division of 
Heintzelman's corps. On Kearney's left was McCall's division of 
Pennsylvania Reserves, extending across the New Market Road. 
General Hooker's, Heintzelman's other division, occupied a position 
to the left and rear of McCall. Although there was quite a large 
gap between the left of McCall and the right of Hooker's it was 
guarded only by General Sumner, with Sedgwick's division, which 
besides was posted to the rear of Hooker. The corps of Generals 
Keyes and Porter held the line nearer to the James River, the former 
being stationed at that point, and the latter around Malvern Hill. 
Their left and front were covered by the Federal gun-boats in the 
James. 

It was evident at the time when the Pennsylvania Reserves had 
been ordered to halt on the New Market Road, just in advance of 
the by-road leading to the Quaker Road, that there was no anticipa- 
tion on the part of those in command that the division was expected 
to be engaged during the day. They were momentarily expecting 
the order to follow the rest of the Fifth Corps. It was also the gen- 
eral impression in the division that it was far within the picket line 
of the army, and that after its constant fighting and marching on 
the preceding days, it was to be on this day at rest. Confirmatory 
of this view were the circumstances that the division was not placed 
in alignment, or any of the ordinary precautions in an exposed posi- 
tion taken, and this being the last day of the month, the several 
regiments were actually drawn up for muster. Yet the position in 
which the Pennsylvania Reserves now found themselves, about the 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 285 

centre of what is known as Glendale, or the Glendale Farms, was to 
prove of greater importance than any other part of the line, owing 
to the intersection at that point of the New Market Road (one of the 
main thoroughfares from Richmond) with the road on which the 
wagon trains were moving. Failure to defend this point would have 
resulted in the destruction of the trains and the cutting of the army 
in two. 

About nine o'clock in the morning, the enemy appeared opposite 
General Franklin's position, and opened a fierce artillery fire upon 
it, continued throughout the day, vigorously replied to by the Fed- 
eral batteries. The enemy also made repeated efforts to cross the 
creek, but all of them were repulsed, General Franklin by night still 
maintaining his position, and thus, by having held in check the whole 
of the Confederate force under General Jackson, prevented the junc- 
tion of the two wings of General Lee's army. 

At the New Market Road all had been quiet until about noon, 
when reports began to come in of the approach of the enemy from 
the direction of Richmond. On receiving this intelligence, Generals 
Meade and Seymour rode out on the New Market Road for some 
distance, when they discovered that there was nothing except a squad- 
ron of cavalry between McCall's troops and the pickets of the enemy, 
who were reported close at hand. On their reporting these facts, 
two regiments of the Reserves, the First and Third, were ordered 
forward on the New Market Road, to form a picket line, and try and 
connect with that of the troops supposed to be toward the right and 
left. These regiments, deployed on both sides of the road, moved 
forward for some distance across the open country in front and well 
into the woods beyond; but before finding any line with which they 
could connect, their centre and left unexpectedly received the fire 
from a portion of what proved to be a large force of the enemy in 
front. Word was sent immediately to General McCall that the enemy 
was in strong force in front, and his skirmishers advancing, and the 
two regiments, after drawing the enemy's fire, were ordered to fall 
slowly back to their proper position in the line. In the meantime, 
General McCall, who had received orders that he was to hold this 
position at all hazards, had posted his troops in line of battle across 
the New Market Road, on the crest of a hill, and in advance of a 
piece of woods, with a stretch of some thousand yards of open country 
in his front, with woods beyond, through which the enemy was re- 
ported advancing. The division was formed with General Meade's 



286 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

brigade on the right, his left resting on the New Market Road. With 
him was Battery "E," First U. S. Artillery, of six light twelve- 
pounders, commanded by Lieutenant A. N. Randol. The centre was 
held by two Pennsylvania batteries, Cooper's and Kern's, the former 
of six and the latter of four light twelve-pounders. General Rey- 
nolds's brigade, now commanded by Colonel Seneca G. Simmons, of 
the Fifth Pennsylvania Reserves, was in rear of the centre, in reserve. 
General Seymour's brigade was on the left, with two New York bat- 
teries, Diedrich's and Knieriem's, each of four twenty-pound Parrots, 
belonging to the Reserve Artillery, and temporarily serving with the 
division. The general direction of Seymour's line was perpendicular 
to that of the centre, which latter was at right angles to the New 
Market Road, whilst General Meade's line obliqued from left to right, 
slightly to the rear. On General Meade's right was Captain Thomp- 
son's Battery " G," of the Second U. S. Artillery, of six light twelve- 
pounders, which was supported by Robinson's brigade. This was the 
left of Kearney's division, whose line was a prolongation of Meade's, 
with his right resting on the Charles City Road. General Hooker, 
as has been stated, was on the left and rear of McCall. His line was 
parallel to and half a mile in front of the Quaker Road; his right, 
Grover's brigade, resting on a by-road that came into the Quaker 
Road at Willis's Church. This distance between Hooker's right and 
McCall's left was about six hundred yards. Sedgwick's division was 
to the right and rear of Hooker, on and about the Quaker Road. 

About two o'clock the enemy's skirmishers appeared on both sides 
of the New Market Road, rapidly advancing, followed by his columns 
of infantry. General Lee was present with this part of the army, 
and also President Davis, who had come from Richmond on purpose 
to witness the final blow that was to demolish the Army of the 
Potomac. 

The position occupied by the Pennsylvania Reserves being some- 
what in advance of the general line of the army, they were the first 
troops encountered by the enemy, who, deploying his columns, di- 
rected his efforts to driving back this division and gaining the road 
beyond. This force of the enemy was composed of the divisions of 
Generals Longstreet and A. P. Hill. Crossing the Chickahominy at 
New Bridge on the 29th of June, they had passed over to the Darby- 
town Road and bivouacked that night at Atlee's Mills. Starting out 
early on the 30th, they continued down the Darbytown Road and 
thence into the New Market Road. Soon after getting into the 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 287 

latter, about noon, Jenkins' brigade of Longstreet's division, in the 
advance, reported the Federal skirmishers. These were the two regi- 
ments of McCall, sent out on the report of Generals Meade and Sey- 
mour. Longstreet continued to advance, pushing back these two 
regiments, at the same time sending Jenkins' brigade forward to 
reconnoitre the ground and the character and position of the force 
in front. On approaching the edge of the woods in front of McCall, 
the latter's whole line came into view. Longstreet then halted his 
column and formed line of battle across the New Market Road, in 
two lines, in the following order: In the front line Kemper's brigade 
was on the right, then Jenkins, Willcox, and Pryor successively to- 
ward the left. His second line was formed with Pickett's brigade 
on the right and Featherstone's on the left. A. P. Hill's division was 
to the rear, massed alongside of the road within supporting distance, 
except Branch's brigade, which was ordered forward to guard Long- 
street's right flank. This formation of Longstreet's brought the 
centre of Jenkins' brigade on the New Market Road. 

It was now about half-past two, when Longstreet, hearing artil- 
lery firing on his left, off toward the Charles City Road, and knowing 
that Huger's command was crossing in on that road and expected 
him to make a simultaneous attack, pushed forward his batteries and 
opened on McCall a severe artillery fire, which was promptly and ef- 
fectively replied to by the latter's guns, the artillery duel being con- 
tinued for an hour. Then, as he heard nothing more from Huger, and 
it was getting late in the day, Longstreet gave the order for his whole 
line to advance to the attack. 

This column under General Huger had been directed to move 
down the Charles City Road to intercept the enemy in that direc- 
tion. The movement appears to have been feebly made and re- 
sulted in little. They moved slowly down the road, skirmishing 
slightly, much impeded by the trees which had been felled in the 
road. It was late in the afternoon when their advance, Mahone's 
brigade, came on Slocum's division posted behind a swamp. An ar- 
tillery duel took place which was, however, so effectively conducted 
on the part of Slocum that it checked all further efforts to advance, 
and darkness coming on, Huger fell back and bivouacked for the 
night. 

There was great want of concert of action in these operations of 
Longstreet, which is attributed to the difficult character of the coun- 
try. Kemper's brigade was the first to receive the order to advance 



288 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

and the first to start, pushing ahead at a run, over fields and through 
woods, for about twelve hundred yards, when they burst out of the 
woods on the left flank of Seymour's brigade. Owing to the pecul- 
iar position of this part of McCall's line, the attack coming from 
this direction was rather unexpected, and the Twelfth Regiment, 
Seymour's left, the greater part of which was posted at a small 
house some distance in front, finding itself suddenly assailed in flank, 
and cut off from the main body of its brigade, was soon overpowered 
and driven off. Knieriem's battery, which was also on Seymour's 
left, after wildly firing one or two rounds, limbered up and went 
to the rear, leaving two of its guns in Kemper's hands. Seymour's 
left was now completely carried away. Kemper's success was very 
brief, however, as Seymour, although under heavy fire, swung back 
his right regiment, the Tenth, as also Diedrich's battery, and pouring 
a destructive fire into Kemper, succeeded in holding him in check. 
The First Rifles and the Second Regiment, sent by General McCall 
from the centre at the beginning of the firing on the left, now covered 
the left and rear of Seymour's new line and aided materially in pre- 
venting the further advance of the enemy in this direction. At this 
crisis the Fifth and Eighth Regiments were brought up from the 
Reserves, under Colonel Simmons, and these, with the rest of Sey- 
mour's line, made a gallant charge, drove Kemper back, regained 
the guns and ground in front, and followed the retreating enemy 
into the woods beyond, capturing several hundred prisoners. In 
this charge Colonel Simmons fell at the head of his regiments, mor- 
tally wounded. A large portion of the Twelfth Regiment, after fall- 
ing back before Kemper, were rallied in rear of Seymour's new line, 
and joining one of Hooker's regiments, the Sixteenth Massachusetts, 
fought creditably side by side with it throughout the rest of the day. 

General Meade early perceiving this advance of Kemper on the 
left, took one of his regiments and in person led it into the woods on 
his left front, to attack in flank. To do this he had to pass in front 
of the two German batteries with Seymour, which, notwithstanding 
his repeated and urgent demands, sent by his staff, to change the 
line of their fire, still continued it in his direction. This, combined 
with that of the enemy, threw his regiment into disorder, whereupon 
it retired and resumed its place in line. 

It was now fully five o'clock, and Pickett's brigade, with Branch's 
brigade of A. P. Hill's division, was ordered to Kemper's relief. 
Moving rapidly forward and passing through the remnants of Kem- 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 289 

per's troops, as they retired, the two brigades came on McCall's 
men in the woods. Met by these two fresh brigades, the regiments 
of McCall, scattered and disorganized by their impetuous charge, were 
now in turn, after a sharp fight, forced back. Branch, on the left, 
pushed ahead until he came out on the open field, where, coming 
under the heavy fire from the batteries on McCall's centre, he fell 
back to the edge of the woods and continued the fighting until the 
close of the engagement. Pickett, coming up on Branch's right, 
passing over the ground where Seymour's left had been, after a 
spirited fight, retook Knieriem's two guns, which the enemy had in 
turn lost, and directed them on the Federal line. Here a hot fight 
ensued, which resulted in Diedrich's battery being speedily silenced 
and driven off, and the forcing back of the Federal lines through the 
woods, until Pickett was met by the fire from Hooker's right, from 
Grover's two right regiments, the Sixteenth Massachusetts and the 
Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania, and also from Burns's brigade of Sedg- 
wick's division, which had come up from the Quaker Road and occu- 
pied a position on Hooker's right. This concentrated fire prevented 
any further advance of Pickett in this direction, and he remained 
engaged here, combined with Branch, until the fighting ceased. 

The repulse of Kemper's brigade had been so complete, and it 
had been so utterly disorganized and scattered, that it took no fur- 
ther part in the action, and was not fully collected together again 
until late that night. 

Whilst these occurrences were taking place on the left, the bat- 
teries on the centre of McCall's line had been busily employed, either 
in replying to the enemy's batteries or in driving back bodies of the 
enemy as they came from under cover of the woods in front. About 
five o'clock, and at the same time that Pickett advanced, Jenkins' 
brigade had moved forward to the attack, passing under a heavy 
artillery fire through the woods in his front. His line of march 
brought him to the edge of the woods directly in front of McCall's 
centre, with his left on the New Market Road. He here halted his 
troops for alignment, and waited whilst a battery (Chapman's) was 
brought up. This battery, however, was hardly in position before 
it was knocked to pieces and compelled to withdraw. Jenkins then 
gave the order to charge directly upon Cooper's and Kern's guns. 
It happened that the First Regiment of the Reserves, now the only 
one remaining of the First Brigade, that had been in reserve, had 
been moved up close to Cooper's battery, just at the moment that 



290 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Jenkins' men dashed up. They came within twenty yards of the 
guns; a fierce encounter took place. But notwithstanding the vio- 
lent and reckless assault of the enemy, he was gradually driven back 
across the open and into the woods from which he had charged, the 
loss very great on both sides, the ground strewn with dead and 
wounded. 

During the progress of the struggle on his left General Meade 
had been actively engaged on his part of the line. The enemy had 
kept up a continuous infantry and artillery fire throughout the day, 
very trying to the men, with an occasional show of force, as if to 
charge. Lieutenant Randol, posted in front of the brigade, had been 
constantly employed driving back these advances. When Jenkins' 
men came out of the woods and started for Cooper's battery, Randol, 
whose front was at that moment clear, with the greatest coolness 
and skill, changed front to the left on his left piece, and pouring a 
destructive fire into this force of the enemy as it advanced against 
the left, materially assisted in breaking the attack. 

Toward six o'clock in the afternoon the enemy came out from 
his cover on General Meade's right and front, and formed his columns 
for an assault, his objective point being Randol's battery. This was 
Wilcox's and Pryor's two brigades, which had been extending to 
their left, still expecting to come up with Huger, and were now, on 
the repulse of Jenkins, ordered to attack immediately in their front. 
They advanced in line of battle, Wilcox near the New Market Road, 
with Pryor on his left. They continued on in this way for some dis- 
tance, but the country was so broken and rough, and the woods so 
dense, that their progress was much impeded. Pryor, who seems to 
have made the best progress, was forced to form his brigade in 
column of regiments, and pushing through the woods, came out in 
front of Randol and Thompson. Four times he advanced in solid 
columns of attack, and each time he was broken up and hurled back- 
ward by the murderous fire of cannister of the two batteries and by 
the musketry of the infantry supports. But at each repulse he would 
rally behind a newly advancing force, and charge up to within fifty 
yards of the batteries. Pryor's right, which was the first, as well as, 
from the nature of the ground, the most exposed part of his com- 
mand, was terribly shattered and forced over to his left, which was 
partly protected by the woods. Featherstone's brigade, which was 
following in support, was now hurried up on the left to his relief. 
The two brigades were, however, unable to make any further ad- 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 291 

vance, and they remained in the woods, and kept up a hot fire on 
Thompson's battery and Robinson's brigade of Kearney's division. 
Finally, Gregg's brigade, of A. P. Hill's division, was brought up to 
their assistance, relieving part of the line and covering the left flank. 
This part of the enemy's line, however, was held firmly in check by 
Kearney until the close of the battle. 

Coming to Wilcox, who, after much delay, caused by contradic- 
tory orders, took up his advance along the New Market Road, the 
difficult nature of the country had caused him to form his regiments 
"by the right of companies to the front." On reaching the open 
ground, he found that two of his regiments, the Ninth and Tenth 
Alabama, were on the right of the New Market Road, and two, the 
Eighth and Eleventh Alabama, were on the left of the road. They 
kept on in this way, the regiments on the right being joined by some 
troops of Jenkins' brigade, which had been rallied after their inef- 
fectual attempt to take Cooper's and Kern's guns. 

Kern's battery had just retired, badly used up and having fired 
every round of its ammunition. Cooper's battery remained per- 
force, although in even worse condition, not only almost out of am- 
munition, but nearly all the horses killed, the limbers of some of 
the guns injured, and the battery altogether in a nearly useless con- 
dition, with two of its lieutenants dead among its guns. Coming 
within sight of this battery, Wilcox's men charged across the open 
field to capture it, receiving the fire of the First Regiment, which 
had reformed in rear of the battery, after driving Jenkins off. They, 
however, dashed on and reached the guns. Just at this moment the 
Ninth Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserves appeared. This regi- 
ment, one of Seymour's brigade, had been posted on the left and 
rear of Cooper's battery, but on word being sent that a force of the 
enemy was coming in on their left and rear, had faced in that direc- 
tion and moved a short distance in the woods to their left, when, 
not seeing or hearing anything of the threatened force, they were 
about returning to their former position. Together with the First 
Regiment, they now made a countercharge to retake Cooper's bat- 
tery. A desperate hand-to-hand fight took place over the guns, in 
which the First and Ninth Reserves crossed bayonets with Wilcox's 
two regiments, and which ended in Wilcox's men being driven off, 
relinquishing the attempt on Cooper's guns. On the left of the road, 
Wilcox was temporarily more successful. After passing through the 
woods and coming out into the open field, his two regiments were 



292 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

subjected to a severe fire. But although the one on the left, the 
Eighth Alabama, the one more exposed, first halted and then moved 
further to its left and joined the remnants of Pryor's and Feather- 
stone's forces, and continued the fight there, the other regiment, the 
Eleventh Alabama, with muskets trailing and at a run, pushed straight 
for Randol's guns. 

General Meade had now virtually but two regiments in his bri- 
gade, the Fourth and Seventh Pennsylvania Reserves. His other regi- 
ment, the Third, had been so actively employed all the first part of 
the day — first by its movement out in the New Market Road, and 
afterward by manoeuvring and fighting in front of the line — that it 
had by this time become very much scattered, although detachments 
of it continued the fighting on different parts of the line. The two 
regiments that Meade still had were posted behind Randol's battery, 
the Fourth on his right and rear, and the Seventh on his rear and 
left. They had been subjected all day to an annoying artillery fire, 
and had been frequently called upon to assist in driving back bodies 
of the enemy as they appeared on their front, on all of which occa- 
sions they had lost a good many men. They had just seen what 
appeared to them one line after another of the enemy boldly charg- 
ing up almost to the guns, and had helped in breaking up and driv- 
ing them off. This was Pryor's assault in column of regiments. As 
the last line wavered and broke, the movement being then thought 
propitious, the regiment on the left, the Seventh, was ordered to 
charge the shattered ranks. Gallantly advancing, they had gone 
but a short distance beyond the battery, when they were met by the 
impetuous attack of Wilcox's Eleventh Alabama, which they were 
unable to withstand. They had been cautioned, in case of their 
charge proving unsuccessful, to retire by separating to the right and 
left, so as to unmask the battery and allow it to play upon the pur- 
suing enemy. Unfortunately this caution was not heeded, and as 
the regiment retired, closely followed by the enemy, Randol was un- 
able to open fire until too late to produce full effect, and the enemy, 
though raked through and through, pushed boldly on to within the 
battery. There the artillerists stood bravely to their posts, the offi- 
cers using pistol and sword, and the men hand-spikes, sponge-staffs, or 
anything that they could lay their hands on. But resistance was un- 
availing; the force of the enemy crowded them off the field, and 
Randol, with one officer desperately wounded, and all his battery 
horses either killed or disabled, was, after fighting to the last possible 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 293 

moment, forced to leave his guns in the enemy's hands. A force 
was now hastily collected, composed of the remaining men of the 
battery and some of the infantry, which made a last supreme effort 
to recapture the guns; but after a hand-to-hand iight, in which they 
succeeded in driving off the Eleventh Alabama, in regaining the bat- 
tery, and rescuing Randol's wounded lieutenant, the enemy surging 
up in increasing numbers, this gallant little band was finally swept 
away. This was accomplished by part of Field's brigade, of A. P. 
Hill's division, which had been sent forward to Wilcox's relief. 

A glance at the condition of the two contending lines at this point 
of time will explain the situation of affairs. The whole of Long- 
street's division had now been engaged, and although temporarily 
successful on parts of the line, his attack had on the whole been so 
firmly resisted that it had failed in its main object — the breaking 
through of the Federal line and the gaining of the Quaker Road. 
His losses had been very severe; many of his brigades had been 
driven from the field, and those that remained were now, at dusk, 
so heavily pressed that the remaining brigades of A. P. Hill's division 
were being hurried up to support them and endeavor to regain the 
ground and batteries so often contended for. Along the Federal line, 
McCall's two flanks had been driven back and lost ground. His 
centre, however, still maintained itself, and with colors flying held 
its ground within a hundred yards of where it was originally posted, 
keeping watch over Cooper's guns, which neither side was able to 
use or remove. On McCall's right, Kearney had held his own all 
day. His left, which had been the only part of his line seriously 
engaged, was reinforced by part of Caldwell's brigade of Richard- 
son's division, whilst Berry's brigade of Kearney's own division had 
also come to take position in its rear. On the left of the Pennsyl- 
vania Reserves, Hooker was to be found, still firmly posted. His 
right, Grover's brigade, on which had fallen the brunt of the fight, 
was now supported by Carr's brigade, which Hooker had posted in 
a second line. Both Kearney and Hooker held the same position 
they had taken up early in the day. Burns's brigade, which had 
been moved into the space between Hooker and McCall, occupying 
the ground where Seymour had reformed his line after Kemper's at- 
tack, had fought hard and well, and was now relieved by Sully's bri- 
gade of Sedgwick's division. This latter brigade, and Dana's of the 
same division, when the action began on Franklin's front, had been 
sent over there to be used in case of necessity. Late in the after- 



294 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

noon they had been hurried back to their former position, and were 
now moved forward into action, Sully relieving Burns's regiments, 
and Dana, whose movements will be described later, moving to the 
right of Sully and more in rear of McCalPs left centre. This was 
about the condition of affairs as A. P. Hill's brigades came into action. 
Two of the brigades of his division, Branch's and Gregg's, had been 
early in the day, as we have seen, sent to Longstreet's assistance. 
Of the remaining brigades, Archer's was now sent in on the right and 
moved to the left of Pickett's position, which was as far as it suc- 
ceeded in advancing. Field's brigade moved directly down the New 
Market Road, followed on his right and rear by Pender's brigade. 
J. R. Anderson's brigade, the last one left of the division, was still 
held in reserve. Field, on starting out of the woods, came in sight 
of Cooper's and Randol's batteries. Cooper's, deserted, lay between 
the fires of the opposing lines and occupied by neither. Randol's 
was covered by what was left of Meade's brigade, which had just 
driven off the Eleventh Alabama. Field's brigade followed the same 
manoeuvre as that previously executed by Wilcox. Two regiments, 
the Fifty-fifth and the Sixtieth Virginia, charged on the right upon 
Cooper's deserted guns, while the Forty-seventh and Second Virginia 
made a dash on the left at Randol's battery. 

It was now getting dark and difficult to distinguish friend from 
foe, and in the woods, almost impossible to tell what was going on. 
On the right Field's regiments gained Cooper's guns without much 
difficulty, passed beyond them and entered the woods in rear, and 
going ahead for some distance farther, must have pushed out well 
to the Quaker Road. Finding themselves with no support on either 
flank, far beyond their lines, they fell back after a brisk fight to the 
place occupied by Cooper's guns. Here they met Pender's brigade, 
which during their absence had come up to Cooper's battery, just as 
one of Dana's regiments, the Twentieth Massachusetts, had taken 
possession of it. This regiment and the Seventh Michigan, by direc- 
tion of General Sumner, had moved across the open field in rear of 
what had been General McCall's left, until they entered the woods 
on Cooper's left. They then moved by the right flank for a short 
distance, which brought them suddenly on Cooper's abandoned guns. 
This forward movement must have been made at the same time that 
Field's two regiments were moving in the opposite direction, the two 
bodies enshrouded in the darkness of the woods being wholly un- 
aware of each other's proximity. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 295 

A sharp fight followed between these regiments and Pender's, the 
Seventh Michigan soon falling back and disappearing. The Twen- 
tieth Massachusetts, in danger of being flanked on the left, at the 
same time received so hot a fire on the right, undoubtedly from Field's 
men retiring, that its right wing had to be drawn back. It now 
found itself apparently alone, and under a heavy fire from both 
Field and Pender. It then withdrew to the edge of the woods just 
in rear, where they reformed their line; they were also joined here 
by the fragments of McCall's centre under command of Colonel 
Roberts. The engagement continued hotly, the enemy turning one 
or two of Cooper's guns on this small force. This regiment, the 
Twentieth Massachusetts, after it grew dark withdrew and rejoined 
its own division. Shortly after this Meagher's brigade suddenly ap- 
peared, sent to the assistance of this part of the field, and Colonel 
Roberts thus being formally relieved, moved off to the rear with the 
remnants of his regiments. Some sharp firing took place between 
Meagher's troops and the opposing enemy. The Federals, however, 
held their ground and soon after all firing ceased. 

On the other side of the New Market Road, in front of Meade, 
Field's two regiments, the Forty-seventh and the Second Virginia, 
charging across the open field, reached Randol's guns, and after a 
severe fight, swept back the force of Meade that had retaken the 
battery from Wilcox. It was now dusk. Thompson's battery, on 
Kearney's left, swept the ground occupied by Field's two regiments, 
which, subjected also to a sharp musketry fire from the woods on 
their right and front, and having lost heavily in previous efforts, de- 
sisted from further attempt to advance and fell back under cover of 
the woods to the New Market Road. Unable to carry off the aban- 
doned guns, they remained as they were on the field. 

Thompson, who had been engaged all day and had done good 
service, at last found himself out of ammunition, with his battery 
much injured. At about half-past seven o'clock he received orders 
to withdraw, which movement was accomplished under cover of in- 
fantry fire, but not without the loss of one gun, the horses of which 
being shot, it was left on the field. Indications of a renewed ad- 
vance of the enemy being apparent soon after Thompson's retire- 
ment, a section of the First Rhode Island Artillery, under Lieutenant 
Jastram, was brought up and occupied for a short time part of the 
ground which had been held by Thompson. It was, however, soon 
compelled to retire, also leaving one of its guns on the field. 



296 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

The advance of the enemy, just described, which had been made 
by J. R. Anderson's brigade, the brunt of the fighting on the Federal 
side falling on Kearney's left and the troops that had been brought 
up to his assistance, was the final effort of the Confederates, and with 
its failure the firing ceased all along the line and the battle ended. 

During the progress of this contest on the New Market Road 
part of the Fifth Corps, Sykes's division, covering the approaches to 
Malvern Hill, were also engaged and did good service. This force, 
assisted by the batteries of the Reserve Artillery, and by the fire of one 
of the gun-boats in the James River, effectually scattered a column 
of the enemy under General Holmes, which was forming on the River 
Road, with the intention of intercepting the trains, and drove them 
off in such confusion that they gave up any further attempt upon 
them. 

Toward the close of the fight General McCall, leading a force of 
the Pennsylvania Reserves, with the view to securing Randol's guns, 
rode forward on the New Market Road to reconnoitre, when, in the 
obscurity of the night, he fell into the hands of the Forty-seventh 
Virginia, Colonel Mayo, of Field's brigade, who, having been unable 
to hold Randol's guns, had fallen back to the New Market Road. 
General McCall having been captured, General Meade having been 
wounded, and General Seymour having become separated by the dis- 
persal of his brigade from the rest of the division, Colonel Roberts, of 
the First Pennsylvania Reserves, was informed that he, as senior of- 
ficer, was in command of the division. Colonel Roberts, accordingly, 
took command of it, and with the assistance of the other field officers, 
was engaged in reforming it, when General Seymour appeared and 
took command. 

At the end of the fight Berry's brigade had extended Kearney's 
left toward the New Market Road. On and about the road were 
the fragments of Meade's brigade, now commanded by Colonel Sickle, 
of the Third Regiment Pennsylvania Reserves. Burns's brigade was 
moving in this direction on the south of the road. Taylor's brigade 
of Slocum's division was formed in the rear across the road. Mea- 
gher's brigade, as we have seen, was occupying a position in the woods 
south of the road, to the rear of what had been McCall's centre. 
On Meagher's left Sully and others of Sedgwick's division were posted, 
while Hooker's position remained unchanged. 

The enemy's line after the fighting ceased had retired back nearly 
to where they started from to make their attack in the morning. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 297 

General McClellan's object in defending this line had been ac- 
complished. The enemy had completely failed in interfering with 
the movement of the trains, and had been severely repulsed at all 
points. By five o'clock in the afternoon of June 30 the last wagons 
of the supply trains of the Army of the Potomac had safely passed 
behind the previously selected position at Malvern Hill; during the 
night the troops, beginning with General Franklin's, had been with- 
drawn, and by daylight of July 1 were occupying the position where 
they fought on that day and gained a signal victory. The division 
of Pennsylvania Reserves, which had fought more and marched more 
than any other division in the Army of the Potomac, was on that 
day held in reserve and not engaged. On the final repulse of the 
enemy at Malvern Hill orders were issued for a further withdrawal 
of the army to Harrison's Landing. This movement was successfully 
accomplished during the 2d and 3d of July. 

The total loss in General McClellan's army from June 26 to July 1, 
inclusive, was 15,249. 1 Of this number the Pennsylvania Reserves 
lost 3,074, far more than any other division of the army. Two hun- 
dred and fifty-three were killed, 1,240 wounded, and 1,581 missing. 
The division commander and one brigade commander were captured, 
another brigade commander killed, and a third wounded. Its list 
of casualties bears witness to its steadiness on the field throughout 
the whole campaign, and especially to the honorable part performed 
at New Market Cross-Roads, where it also captured several hundred 
prisoners and three stands of colors. General Meade, referring to 
this battle afterward, wrote to General McCall: "It was only the 
stubborn resistance offered by our division, prolonging the contest 
till after dark, and checking till that time the advance of the enemy, 
that enabled the concentration during the night of the whole army 
on the James River, that saved it." And General Fitz-John Porter 
also wrote: "Had not McCall held his place on New Market 
Road, that line of march of the army would have been cut by the 
enemy." 

General Meade's services had been invaluable to General McCall. 
Mounted throughout the day, among or leading his men, cheering 
them by word and example, he seemed the leading spirit of the battle 
in that part of the field. He was frequently in and about Randol's 
battery, and was there when his regiment made the charge which 
ended so disastrously, striving to rally and inspirit his disorganized 
1 The Seven Days' Battles, June 26 to July 1, 1862. 



298 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

ranks and restore his line, when he was struck in the arm and side 
by a musket-ball, his horse Blacky being wounded at the same 
time. 

Here it was also, and about the same point of time, that Lieu- 
tenant Hamilton Kuhn, one of the general's aides-de-camp, is sup- 
posed to have been killed. The last seen of Lieutenant Kuhn was 
in the thick of the fight, ably seconding his chief in his efforts to rally 
his men to repel the enemy. He had been active throughout the 
campaign, performing the most important services. His courage, 
gentlemanly manners, and quick intelligence had much endeared him 
to the general, whose frequent mention of him in these letters bears 
witness to his high regard. Lieutenant Watmough, the other aide, 
was wounded, and in fact every officer attached to General Meade's 
staff was more or less hurt, all having served meritoriously through- 
out the day. 

General Meade supposed at first that he had been struck in the 
side with merely a spent-ball, and that his arm, which pained him 
greatly, had received the more serious wound. It was then just about 
sunset. Riding up to Lieutenant Randol, he said: "Randol, I am 
badly wounded in the arm, and must leave the field. Fight your 
guns to the last, but save them if possible." He then rode a short 
distance to the rear, where he remained for some little time, giving 
instructions and reforming his troops. Finding, however, that he 
was becoming weak from pain and loss of blood, and as it was now 
dark and the fight virtually ended, he turned over the command of 
his brigade to Colonel Sickle, Third Regiment, and left the field. 

General Meade, after leaving the field, rode to the rear, accom- 
panied by an orderly, toward the field hospitals of the division. While 
on the way he met the division surgeon, Dr. Stocker, who, having re- 
ceived a painful wound in the hand, was riding in the same direction, 
and who, finding that the general was badly wounded and suffering 
intensely, accompanied him to the hospital. But it was soon evi- 
dent that this was no place for any one to delay in, if he hoped event- 
ually to follow the army. It was crowded with the wounded, the 
dead, and the dying. The surgeons, who were doing everything to 
relieve the wounded, had their hands full. Confusion reigned on all 
sides. Troops who had been fighting all day were beginning to fall 
back toward the river, and as it was impossible to furnish transporta- 
tion for the wounded, those who were unable to drag themselves along 
would have to be left to the doom of a Southern prison. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 299 

General Meade had dismounted for the first time since being struck 
and was lying on the grass, when the urgency of attempting to re- 
mount and reach the river, or at least to pass beyond the new lines 
of the army, became apparent. Although suffering intensely, he had 
already risen, with but faint hope that he would be able to bear the 
jolting of his horse, when, as good fortune would have it, there ap- 
peared, hurrying along amidst the press in the road, the little, low, 
two-wheeled, one-horse wagon in which he carried his mess and tent. 
This was at once halted, everything tossed out, and the general lying 
down in it, and accompanied by Dr. Stocker, joined the crowd on its 
way to the river. Not confident that he would be able to proceed, 
he committed his sword and belt and his horse to his orderly, direct- 
ing him to make the best of his way with them to the rear. Poking 
along through the weary hours of the night, over frightfully rough 
roads, every jolt and delay increasing his bodily and mental suffer- 
ing, he finally found himself, long after midnight, at General Mc- 
Clelland head-quarters at HaxalFs Landing. There, through the 
kindness of General Seth Williams, who gave up his own tent for 
the purpose, he was placed on a bed to rest after his hard night's ride. 

As it was the general's earnest desire that he should, if possible, 
be sent home, only sufficient examination of his wound was made to 
prove that such a course would not be injurious. Aware of the thou- 
sand rumors that would probably reach the ears of those who watched 
and waited through the long hours that followed a battle, he, ever 
thoughtful of others, and especially of them, insisted, although ad- 
vised against any unnecessary exertion, upon writing the following 
note to his wife: 

City Point 1 , Headquarters Army op the Potomac, July 1, 1862. 
Dear Margaret: 

After four days' fighting, last evening, about 7 P. M., I received 
a wound in the arm and back. 2 Fortunately I met Dr. Stocker, and 
got hold of a little cart I had, in which I was brought here. Dr. 
Stocker says my wounds are not dangerous, though they require im- 
mediate and constant medical attendance. I am to leave in the 

1 This should be opposite City Point. 

2 The ball entered the side and came out at the back. In the hurried exam- 
ination he probably heard, or was told, that he had been struck in the back. This 
seemed to worry him more than the fact of being wounded, for all through the 
watches of the long night he would revert to the thought, saying to Dr. Stocker, 
" Just think, doctor, of my being shot in the back!" 



300 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

first boat for Old Point, and from thence home. Kuhn, I fear, is 
killed. Willie Watmough 1 was not hurt, the last I saw of him. 
Good-by! 

Yours, G. G. Meade. 

Although his wounds, as the general said, were pronounced not 
dangerous, yet many of those who came to bid him good-by believed 
them to be mortal, and that they were looking upon him for the last 
time. That night he was placed on one of the hospital transports 
bound for Fortress Monroe, and on reaching that place was trans- 
ferred to one of the regular line of steamers to Baltimore, where he 
arrived on the morning of July 3, and was met by his wife and one of 
his sons, who had arrived there in the early morning. As his condi- 
tion rendered it impossible for him to travel by rail to Philadelphia, 
one of the Ericsson steamers, plying between Baltimore and Phila- 
delphia, through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, and that after- 
noon about to leave for Philadelphia, was, through the courtesy of 
the officers of the line, brought alongside of the steamer from Fortress 
Monroe, and the general carried from one to the other. 

The presence of his wife and the thought of at last getting home 
seemed almost from the first to revive him, and although very weak 
and still suffering, he passed a comparatively comfortable night, ar- 
riving safely at Philadelphia on the morning of July 4. He was there 
met by members of his family and several friends, and carefully car- 
ried to his own home, to which his family physician, Dr. Addinell 
Hewson, had been summoned to await his arrival. 

The wound in the arm was through the fleshy part of the fore- 
arm, and might have been made by the same ball that struck the 
side; it proved of slight consequence and soon healed. The other 
wound was more severe. According to the account of Dr. Hewson, 
the ball had entered at an acute angle, from front backward, the right 
side of the chest, on a line drawn vertically from the armpit to the 
hip, and so impinged on the lower border of the ninth rib, from below 
upward, owing to which circumstance, its course being determined 
along the border of the rib as far back as the angle of the rib, it made 
its escape about an inch to the right of the spine, being thus pre- 
vented from passing in a direct line into the cavity of the chest and 
there wounding vital organs. 

During the general's convalescence he remained very quietly at 

1 Lieutenant Watmough did, as previously stated, receive a wound. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 301 

home, enjoying the society of his family and his near personal friends. 
As soon, however, as he had become able to move readily about, he 
betrayed anxiety to return to his post. The reports from the front 
seemed to indicate immediate active operations, and fearing lest he 
should be absent from his command during some important move- 
ment, he, despite the counsels of his physician for a longer stay, on 
August 11 again bade good-by to his wife and children and set out 
for the field. He proceeded to Baltimore by the same route by which 
he had returned home, it being more convenient than rail for trans- 
porting his horses and baggage. These, left on the field of battle, had 
suddenly appeared one morning, much to the excitement of that quiet 
neighborhood, in front of the general's residence in Philadelphia, in 
charge of his zealous body-servant, who, hearing that the general 
had died of his wounds, had obtained the requisite pass and brought 
his two horses and private baggage as a memento to the family. 
General Meade was absent from the field exactly forty-two days. 



To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Barnum's, Baltimore, Md., August 12, 1862. 
I arrived here this morning at seven o'clock. I was very well 
received here by all the people at this house, particularly by the 
office clerk in spectacles, who said he had seen and attended to you. 

He says told them a piece of a shell had struck me in the body, 

passing through and through. It was not therefore unreasonable 
that people generally should have considered my case a desperate 
one. I had a very pleasant trip on the " Propellor," it being quite 
cool and breezy. At St. George's, on the canal, just as I had turned 
in, I was informed that a number of Union citizens had assembled 
on the dock and were desirous of seeing me, as they had seen me 
pass through when wounded. Fortunately the boat was about start- 
ing, which, together with my dishabille, were given as excuses for my 
non-appearance, and the people of St. George's were thus saved a 
most eloquent address. The first person I saw this morning was 
Duncan Graham, looking very handsome and very like his brother 
Willie. Duncan is on board the "Octorara," Commodore Porter's 
flagship. After I had breakfasted, I attended to shifting the bag- 
gage and securing my place on the Old Point boat. 



302 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

I cannot tell you how miserable and sad I was and am at parting 
from you and the dear children, and as the boat pushed off and I saw 
those three fine boys standing on the dock, I thought my heart would 
break. But it cannot be helped and must be endured, and we must 
try and bear our trials as cheerfully as we possibly can. 

Baltimoke, August 16, 1862. 
I left Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon with a great crowd of 
returning officers and soldiers. I think I wrote you that it was re- 
ported in Baltimore that the Government had taken possession of 
every available means of transport. When I got on the boat, I met 
Colonel Falls, the proprietor of the line, who was so civil to me when 
wounded, who told me confidentially that the army was to be with- 
drawn from the James River, and that he was expecting Mr. Tucker, 
Assistant Secretary of War, to go with him to arrange about the 
movement. On my arrival at Fortress Monroe, General Dix said 
something was going on, but was too diplomatic, or did not know 
enough, to give me any useful information. I therefore continued 
on to Harrison's Landing, arriving at nine o'clock Thursday evening. 
I found the troops of our division were then embarking. On repair- 
ing to headquarters, I met General Seth Williams and General Porter. 
They informed me that McCall and Reynolds had been released and 
returned; that McCall had been ordered to Washington, and Rey- 
nolds assigned to the command of the division. It was so late, being 
near eleven o'clock, and having borrowed an ambulance from a 
friendly quartermaster to take me up there, I did not make an ef- 
fort to see McClellan, but returned to the boat, where I slept. The 
next morning, after much trouble, I found Reynolds, who received 
me very warmly. He said he had not yet assumed command of the 
division, and would not do so till it reached the end of the movement 
by water (Acquia Creek), and that the best thing I could do would 
be to rejoin it there; that I would have the First Brigade, Seymour 
the Second, and Jackson the Third. I immediately returned in the 
mail-boat, reached Old Point last night, and this place this morning, 
and would have been in Washington by this time but for the failure 
of my baggage to get up to the train in time. I shall go to Washing- 
ton this afternoon, and if there is a boat leaving to-morrow (Sunday), 
go down in it to Acquia Creek. I see the papers have got hold of the 
movement; still you must not repeat what I write. McClellan's 
army is to be withdrawn entirely from the James and be posted at 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 303 

Fredericksburg and in front of Washington. This is a virtual con- 
demnation of all McClellan's movements, and must be a most bitter 
pill for him to swallow. When at Fortress Monroe, I understood he 
had come down the night before and telegraphed to the Department 
and returned apparently disgusted. It was believed he earnestly 
protested against the withdrawal, and asked for authority to advance 
on Richmond. It was peremptorily refused him. 

I have been informed that Burnside has been twice urged to take 
the command of the Army of the Potomac, but always refuses to 
supersede McClellan; but I believe the thing will soon be done with- 
out consulting either of them, for the more I see the more I am satis- 
fied that McClellan is irretrievably gone, and has lost the greatest 
chance any man ever had on this continent. 

Reynolds looks very well, but complains bitterly of the want of 
courtesy shown towards him in Richmond. 

Fredericksburg, 1 August 18, 1862. 

I enclose you an order recently published by McClellan, which I 
wish you to show Dr. Hewson, as it will confirm what I told him, 
that the Army of the Potomac had always carried out the new policy 
in a proper manner, and that the President's order and Pope's mani- 
festoes were unnecessary. 

Sunday morning at eight o'clock I left in the boat for this place, 
arriving here in the evening. I find myself ahead of Reynolds and 
Seymour. Burnside is absent, and Parke, recently made major gen- 
eral, is in command. To-day I have been very busy, seeing Parke 
and getting myself fixed. I visited my old regiments and was re- 
ceived with much enthusiasm, and I really believe the whole com- 
mand, officers and men, were sincerely glad to see me back. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, August 19, 1862. 
My yesterday's letter announced to you my arrival at this place 
and my being once more in harness. I have not yet assumed com- 
mand of my old brigade, as I am awaiting the arrival of Reynolds, 
who ought to have reached here, and whom I am hourly expecting. 
I, however, yesterday went amongst them, riding through the camps, 
and was much gratified at their turning out by companies and cheer- 
ing me. I stopped at each company and said a few words, indicating 
my gratification at being once more among them, and commending 
1 Should be opposite Fredericksburg. 



304 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

them for their good conduct in battle. They all seemed right glad 
to see me, both officers and men, and I do believe they were sincere. 
This is very gratifying, for they had more opportunity of knowing 
what I did and what I am than my superior officers. 

Burnside returned this morning and received me very cordially. 
He is quite different from McClellan in his manners, having great 
affability and a winning way with him that attracts instead of re- 
pelling strangers. I have accidentally learned the cause of his ab- 
sence, which I communicate confidentially. It appears when Mc- 
Clellan telegraphed, asking to have the retreat countermanded and 
an advance ordered, that very sharp messages passed between him 
and Halleck. The latter individual immediately sent for Burnside, 
stated the case to him, said McClellan misunderstood his feelings and 
position, which were of the most friendly nature towards him, but that 
the matter had taken such shape that unless he (Burnside) could get 
McClellan to recede or explain, that he (Halleck) could not save him 
from being superseded. Burnside immediately went down to the 
James River, and was returning when I saw him this morning, hav- 
ing, as he thinks, adjusted the difficulty. Burnside is devotedly at- 
tached to McClellan, and would not think of taking his place when 
it was offered to him. Burnside says the rear guard had crossed the 
Chickahominy before he left, and that the retreat had been con- 
ducted in the most masterly manner, the enemy either not knowing 
it or else glad to let us go undisturbed. We hear nothing of the 
enemy in our vicinity, and they are said to be falling back from Pope. 
What they are after now, it is hard to tell. Since I have been here 
I have been talking over the battles with different officers, and I am 
coming to the conclusion that the Pennsylvania Reserves did save 
the army, in the great strategic change of base; that is to say, had 
it not been for the Reserves holding the enemy in check on Monday, 
June 30th, and thus enabling the different corps to retreat and unite 
on that night, they (the enemy) would undoubtedly have broken 
our centre and divided our forces in two, which could have been de- 
stroyed in detail. Hence the sturdy resistance made by the Reserves, 
not permitting the enemy to advance beyond the line of battle, gave 
our forces time during the night to retire and concentrate, so that 
next morning the enemy found an unbroken line in front of them. 
From all I can learn, those that did fight, fought most gallantly and 
desperately. Of course, there were a great many (as there always 
will be) who left the ranks early in the action. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 305 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, August 21, 1862. 

Generals Reynolds and Seymour arrived yesterday afternoon, and 
to-day the division is to be reorganized, Reynolds taking the com- 
mand of the whole, I of the First Brigade, Seymour the Second, and 
General Jackson (recently appointed from the colonelcy of the Ninth 
Regiment) the Third. 

We have very exciting news to-day. It appears that General 
Pope has been obliged to show his back to the enemy and to select a 
line of retreat, as Jackson, having advanced with a large force, Gen- 
eral Pope has been compelled to retire from the line of the Rapidan 
and across the Rappahannock. 1 I expect that in a few days we will 
have exciting times, and expect hourly orders for us either to hurry 
up to Pope's rescue or to fall back upon Washington. The enemy 
are evidently determined to strike a blow before McClellan's army 
can get into position here to co-operate with Pope. To do this with 
any chance of success, they must attack us in the next ten days. 
By that time we will have collected here the greater portion of Mc- 
Clellan's army, with their baggage and trains. For my part, the 
sooner it comes off the better, as I think, after the next great 
struggle is settled, we will begin to see some prospect of a settle- 
ment. If we can only give them a good thrashing, a regular out- 
and-out victory, I think the demoralization of their forces will be 
such that they will find it very difficult to collect and organize 
another army. 

Warrenton, Va., August 24, 1862. 
I have not written you for several days, and now have only time 
to tell you in a few words that I am here all right and how I got 
here. On the 22d we were ordered up to a ford, said to be ten or 
twelve miles from Fredericksburg, and where it was thought the 
enemy might cross and threaten Pope's left flank. We started at 
ten P. M., the night dark and stormy; we lost the road, and after 
traveling all night, were at daylight only four miles on our journey. 
We started again, and before proceeding far, we got an order to keep 
on to a higher ford, so that by night, after one of the hottest days I 
almost ever experienced, we reached this ford, twenty-seven miles 
distant, and only six miles from Pope's main army at the crossing of 
the Rappahannock. The next morning we were ordered up to the 

1 Engagement of Cedar Mountain, Va., August 9, 1862. Federal loss, killed, 
wounded, and missing, 2,381 (0. R.). 



306 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Rappahannock Station, and on arriving, heard the news of the en- 
emy's having crossed above and turned Pope's right flank; of Siegel's 
fight, in which poor Bohlen was killed; found the enemy had been 
making an effort to force the passage of the Rappahannock over the 
railroad bridge, but had been repulsed by our artillery; that Pope 
was obliged to fall back from the Rappahannock, and was then mov- 
ing off, and we had to follow him. This movement has been suc- 
cessfully performed, thanks, not to Mr. Pope's genius, but to an un- 
looked-for interposition of Providence in the shape of a rain which 
has so swollen the Rappahannock that it is not fordable at the usual 
places; so that they cannot cross, as they intended, on both sides of 
him, to cut him off. He is not yet out of the scrape, though every 
day's delay is in his favor, as poor McClellan's army is being rushed 
up here to his rescue. 

I presume the enemy will not let us be quiet here. They have a 
large force in front of us, and are evidently determined to break 
through Pope and drive us out of Virginia, when they will follow into 
Maryland and perhaps Pennsylvania. I am sorry to say, from the 
manner in which matters have been mismanaged, that their chances 
of success are quite good. Whether I shall get back with the army 
to Washington, or go to Richmond, to live on bread and water, or 
go to my long and final account, are questions that the future only 
can solve. I am well, which, considering the night and hot sun 
marches we have just accomplished, is saying a good deal. I am 
also in good spirits, which is saying a good deal more. 

Centreville, August 31, 1862. 
I write to advise you that after three days' continuous fighting I 
am all safe and well. 1 Old Baldy was hit in the leg, but not badly 
hurt. Willie (your brother) I saw this morning, all safe — Willie Wat- 
mough also. All your friends, I believe, are safe. I have had sev- 
eral officers and many men killed and wounded, but no one that you 
know particularly. We have been obliged to fall back from the old 
Bull Run battle-field, where we fought. The enemy are superior in 
force and flushed with their success. We are in a critical position, 
but I trust will get out of it. This result is no more than might 
have been known by any one who looked upon things in their 
proper light. 

1 Second Battle of Bull Run, Va., August 28-30, 1862. Federal loss, killed, 
wounded, and missing, 14,462 (O. R.). 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 307 

Fairfax Court House, September 2, 1862 — 8 A. M. 

All safe and well at this moment. Private letters are forbidden, 
so ought not to give you any news. Be resigned, and try to look 
forward with good spirits. 

Willie 1 is here and all right. Send word to Betty 2 at Harrisburg. 

Arlington House, Va., September 3, 1862. 

We arrived here this morning. Everything now is changed; Mc- 
Clellan's star is again in the ascendant, and Pope's has faded away. 
The whole army has been withdrawn in the face of the enemy, around 
Washington, getting back to where we left last March, and now we 
have to defend our capital, and perhaps resist an invasion of our soil 
through Maryland, and all from the willful blindness of our rulers. 
However, this is to no purpose. 

I am writing in the house occupied as the headquarters of Whip- 
ple's division. I have not time to give you a full account of all I 
have gone through since leaving Fredericksburg, but will briefly re- 
late. We were ordered up to support Pope, and arrived at the rail- 
road crossing of the Rappahannock just as Pope had found it nec- 
essary to fall back on Warrenton. From Warrenton, he, having 
learned they were still turning his right flank, we started to fall back 
on Centreville. On the 28th my brigade, the advance of McDowell's 
corps, was opened upon by a battery, and from that time till the night 
of the 30th we were pretty much manoeuvring and fighting all the 
time. The principal scene of the conflict was the old battle-ground 
of Bull Run, with this difference, that we were in the reverse position 
from what we occupied before, we holding the position occupied by 
the enemy in the old battle. The fighting continued till the night 
of the 30th, at which time Pope became satisfied they were in too large 
numbers for him and would get behind him; whereupon he withdrew 
to Centreville, and subsequently to Fairfax Court House; Kearney 
and Hooker having a fight on September 1st, when Kearney and 
Stevens both were killed; but we succeeded in driving the enemy for 
miles. The Pennsylvania Reserves were engaged throughout the 
whole time, and particularly distinguished themselves on the after- 
noon of the 30th, when our attack on the enemy's right flank having 
failed, they attacked us very vigorously on our left flank; when the 
Reserves came into action, and held them in check and drove them 

1 William Sergeant, brother of Mrs. Meade. 

2 Wife of William Sergeant. 



308 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

back, so that when other troops came up, we were enabled to save 
our left flank, which if we had not done, the enemy would have de- 
stroyed the whole army. That night we retreated to Centreville. In 
a few words, we have been, as usual, out-manoeuvred and out-numbered, 
and though not actually defeated, yet compelled to fall back on 
Washington for its defense and our own safety. On these recent 
battle-fields I claim, as before, to have done my duty. My services, 
then, should, I think, add to those previously performed, and that I 
may now fairly claim the command of a division. I suppose, now 
that McClellan is up again, all his old friends will be as affectionate 
as ever. I expect the enemy will follow us up, and though I hardly 
think they will adventure to attack Washington, yet I believe they 
will try to get into Maryland, and that will necessitate our moving to 
meet them. 

I am quite well, notwithstanding we have been for the last ten 
days without regular food or sleep. All of my staff and most of the 
command are completely knocked up, but I am just as well as ever. 
General Reynolds has been very kind and civil to me. 

Headquarters Whipple's Division, Reserve Army Corps, 

Arlington, Va., September 4, 1862. 

I wrote you yesterday, informing you of my arrival at this place. 
We came here under orders from McDowell (in whose corps we are), 
who directed us to march from Fairfax Court House to Arlington. 
Since reaching here we have had no orders of any kind, and we can- 
not tell where we are going, though I presume we will take post some- 
where in the vicinity of the city, for its defense. I hardly think the 
enemy will make an attack on the city, but believe he will cross a 
column above into Maryland. Our division, the Reserves, is pretty 
well used up, and ought, strictly speaking, to be withdrawn, reorgan- 
ized, filled up with recruits, and put in efficient condition. 

Washington, September 6, 1862. 
I have only time to send you a check and to say that I saw Seth 
Williams, and he says McClellan told him to remind him whenever 
any reorganization took place; or there was a chance to give me a 
division, I should have it. I also hear we are to be transferred to 
Porter's corps, and that both Pope and McDowell are relieved of 
their commands. Everything is in confusion at present and none 
can tell what will come of it. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 309 

Camp near Leesboro', Md., September 8, 1862. 
After writing to you on the 6th, I went to Williards', where I met 
Willie 1 and his wife. I dined with them, and returned to camp, where 
I found orders to march. We marched all night and most of the 
next day, reaching this point, some ten miles north of Washington, 
yesterday afternoon. We have been here one day, and are to move 
again to-morrow, and will be, I suppose, kept moving now until some- 
thing decisive is done with the enemy, who have invaded Maryland. 
Hooker has been placed in command of McDowell's corps, to which 
we belong, and Burnside has been placed in Pope's position as com- 
mander of an army. 

Camp near Poplar Spring, Md., September 12, 1862. 

We are here as part of Hooker's (late McDowell's) corps, forming 
a portion of the right wing of the army, under the command of Burn- 
side. I do not know who commands the left wing, nor am I able to 
ascertain the strength and position of the different corps. The enemy 
are believed to be at Frederick and behind the line of the Monocacy 
River; all reported as entrenching themselves and are estimated in 
various numbers, from two hundred thousand to fifty thousand. I 
have no doubt myself they are in large force and in strong position. 
We have always thus found them, and I have no reason to expect a 
different state now. As I said before, I do not know McClellan's 
force, or their position, except what immediately surrounds us. We 
are on the old National Road, connecting Frederick City with Balti- 
more, and are in a position to cover either that city or Washington. 
I suppose that in a day or two we will have a chance to tell what the 
enemy mean and what we can do. I must confess I am not very san- 
guine of our power. The morale of the army is very much impaired 
by recent events; the spirits of the enemy proportionately raised. 

Tell Sergeant 2 1 have received his letter, and that he did right to 
publish what I said of the Reserves, as it was true. There was a 
portion of the division that was overwhelmed and fell back in good 
order on the 30th, but there was no truth in the report that they 
ran or fled without cause. 

Camp near Frederick, Md., September 13, 1862. 
I wrote you yesterday. My letter had hardly left, when orders 
came, directing General Reynolds to proceed immediately to Harris- 

1 William Sergeant, brother of Mrs. Meade. 2 Son of General Meade. 



310 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

burg, which of course placed me in command of the division of Penn- 
sylvania Reserves. Reynolds obeyed the order with alacrity, though 
very much against his will, and General Hooker, commanding the 
corps to which we are attached, made an immediate and earnest pro- 
test against Reynolds's removal. Soon after we marched to this 
place, which the enemy retired from on our approach. To-day I 
have seen General McClellan, who was very civil and polite. I only 
saw him for a few minutes, surrounded by a great crowd; but I saw 
Seth Williams, who had in his hands Hooker's protest, and seemed 
quite surprised that Reynolds had left so soon. I told Williams very 
plainly that I saw no occasion for making such an outcry against 
Reynolds's removal; that I considered it a reflection on my com- 
petency to command the division, and that if he came back on any 
such grounds, I should insist on being relieved. 

I am now ready to meet the enemy, for I feel I am in the posi- 
tion I am entitled to. I should have been delighted to have gone to 
Harrisburg in Reynolds's place, as I have no doubt he will get a 
large command there. 

The enemy have retired in the direction of Hagerstown. Where 
they have gone, or what their plans are, is as yet involved in obscu- 
rity, and I think our generals are a little puzzled. Their object in 
coming here seems to have been the procuring of food and clothing, 
as they had laid their hands on all articles of this description. I 
suppose we shall have to chase them around, until we find them in 
some strong position, when they will give us battle, which I trust 
will be before I lose the command of the division. 

Field op Battle near Sharpsburg, September 18, 1862. 
I commanded the division of Pennsylvania Reserves in the action 
at South Mountain Gap on the 14th. 1 Our division turned the en- 
emy's left flank and gained the day. Their movements were the ad- 
miration of the whole army, and I gained great credit. I was not 
touched or my horse. Yesterday and the day before my division 
commenced the battle, and was in the thickest of it. 2 I was hit by 
a spent grape-shot, giving me a severe contusion on the right thigh, 
but not breaking the skin. Baldy was shot through the neck, but 

1 Battle of South Mountain, September 14, 1862. Federal loss, killed, 
wounded, and missing, 2,346 (O. R.). 

2 Battle of the Antietam, September 17, 1862. Federal loss, killed, wounded, 
and missing, 12,410 (O. R.). 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 311 

will get over it. A cavalry horse I mounted afterwards was shot in 
the flank. When General Hooker was wounded, General McClellan 
placed me in command of the army corps, over General Ricketts's 
head, who ranked me. This selection is a great compliment, and 
answers all my wishes in regard to my desire to have my services 
appreciated. I cannot ask for more, and am truly grateful for the 
merciful manner I have been protected, and for the good fortune 
that has attended me. I go into the action to-day as the com- 
mander of an army corps. If I survive, my two stars are secure, and 
if I fall, you will have my reputation to live on. God bless you all ! 
I cannot write more. I am well and in fine spirits. Your brother 
Willie is up here, but was not in action yesterday. 

Sharpsburg, Md., September 20, 1862. 
I wrote you a few lines, day before yesterday, on the field of 
battle, hurriedly, and at a time when we expected every moment the 
battle would be renewed. The battle of the day previous had been a 
very severe one, and our army was a good deal broken and somewhat 
demoralized — so much so that it was deemed hazardous to risk an 
offensive movement on our part until the reinforcements arriving 
from Washington should reach the scene of action. Yesterday morn- 
ing, at early dawn, we moved forward, when lo! the bird had flown, 
and we soon ascertained from prisoners, taken straggling on the field, 
and from the evidences the field itself bore, that we had hit them 
much harder than they had us, and that in reality our battle was a 
victory. They all crossed the river and retreated into Virginia, the 
night of the battle, so that Maryland is free, and their audacious in- 
vasion of our soil put an end to. Whether the country will be satis- 
fied with this or not I cannot say, but it ought to be, as I am free 
to confess I feared at one time the movement from Washington was 
a dangerous one, for if we were defeated and this army broken up, 
the country was gone. Now, if there is any common sense in the 
country, it ought to let us have time to reorganize and get into shape 
our new lines, and then advance with such overwhelming numbers 
that resistance on the part of the enemy would be useless. My com- 
mand took a great many prisoners. They all concurred in saying 
that the Southern army was dispirited; that the great bulk were 
tired of the war and of fighting, and would be glad of any settlement 
that would terminate it. They were ragged, shoeless and half 
starved, and were certainly in a most pitiable condition. 



312 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

I am afraid I shall not get the credit for these last battles that 
I did for those near Richmond, for two reasons: First, I was not 
wounded; second, old Sam Ringwalt was not there to write letters 
about me. I find the papers barely mention the Pennsylvania Re- 
serves, call them McCall's troops, never mentioning my name; 
whereas I was not only in command, but at South Mountain, on the 
14th, I was on the extreme right flank, had the conduct of the whole 
operations, and never saw General Hooker, commanding the corps, 
after getting his instructions, till the whole affair was over. I must, 
however, do Hooker the justice to say that he promptly gave me 
credit for what I did, and have reason to believe it was his urgent 
appeal to McClellan, that I was the right man to take his place when 
he was wounded, which secured my being assigned to the command 
of the corps. I send you two pencil notes received on the field of 
battle, which I wish preserved as evidences of my having done my 
duty, and which I think will bear this out when it is remembered 
that there were on the field several major generals in command of 
divisions only, besides several brigadiers who were my seniors, and 
one of them in the corps I was assigned to. These papers, written 
on the field of battle, amply compensate. A man who under such 
circumstances is elevated to rank may well be proud of the fact, and 
can hardly have his elevation charged to political or petticoat influ- 
ence. 

Yesterday we were occupied moving up from our position on the 
battle-field to the river, which the enemy succeeded in crossing be- 
fore we could stop them. To-day Porter's corps was sent over, but 
not being properly supported, the enemy turned on him, and he had 
to retire to this side. 

******** 
"Pencil Notes," McClellan to Meade, mentioned in last letter. 

Headquarters Army of the Potomac, 

September 17, 1:25 P. M., 1862. 

Brg. Genl. Geo. Meade 
Genl. 

The Commanding Gen'l directs that you temporarily assume 
command of Hooker's Corps, and use every effort in your power to 
reorganize it and make it available. 

It is absolutely necessary that the right should be held, and the 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 313 

troops must be got together and into position for that purpose as 
rapidly as possible. 

Yours very Respy. 

Coulburn 

A. A. G. 

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac, 

3 hours, 10 min., September 17, 1862. 

General Meade 
General 

The Commanding Gen'l directs that you at once take command 
of the Army Corps, which was under the command of Genl. Hooker 
this morning. This order is given without regard to rank and all 
officers of the Corps will obey your orders. The Comdg. Genl. also 
directs me to say that you will be held responsible for this command 
as herein assigned to you. 

Very Respectfully 

R. B. Marcy 
Chief of Staff. 



To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., September 23, 1862. 

We have been very quiet the last few days, with now and then a 
stampede of the enemy, crossing at this place and that. I have no 
idea myself that he will attempt any more invasions of Maryland, 
the last having proved the most lamentable failure, both politically 
and in a military sense. Our army is stretched along the banks of 
the Potomac from Harper's Ferry to Williamsport. My corps was 
under orders yesterday to march to Harper's Ferry, but the order 
was countermanded before the time for moving came. I saw your 
brother Willie yesterday; he is quite well, but greatly disgusted in 
not having been in any of the recent battles. Although the papers 
are silent on the subject of the Pennsylvania Reserves, yet I can 
assure you in the army they are now acknowledged as the best divi- 
sion for fighting in the whole army, and are praised everywhere. 

James Biddle arrived the day after the last battle and joined 
Ricketts' staff. Young Kingsbury, whom you may remember seeing 
at Mrs. Turnbull's, was killed. One of my aides, Lieutenant Riddle, 



314 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

of Pittsburg, was shot in the hand. Old Baldy is doing well and is 
good for lots of fights yet. 

Camp near Sharpsburg, September 27, 1862. 

I have received your letters of the 20th and 23d. In the latter 
you had received my pencil note of the 18th, and were aware of my 
success and promotion, which I must say you take in the most humble 
manner and pretty much as if it were no more than you expected. 
In regard to my newspaper fame, I agree with you, that when wounded 
I was over-advertised; but this time not a single paper yet has an- 
nounced that on the battle-field I was selected to command a corps 
d'armee, in place of Hooker, which fact, after all, is the greatest 
feather in my cap. Hooker has received his reward, having been 
appointed a brigadier general in the regular army, in place of Mans- 
field, killed in battle. 

I don't think I ever told you about Master John 1 at Bull Run, on 
the first day's fighting. He came on a part of the field, with my 
spare horse and some cigars for me. On arriving where the balls 
were flying, John's courage oozed out, and he declined proceeding 
any farther, but gave the cigars to an orderly to bring to me in the 
advance. On his return, the orderly could not find him, and I never 
saw anything of John or the horse till we got to Arlington Heights, 
when he presented himself and said that he heard I was cut off and 
a prisoner, and he had gone to Alexandria to save the horse for the 
family. I charged him with, and he frankly acknowledged his cow- 
ardice. I sent for a file of men, intending to have him drummed 
out of camp as a coward; but he begged so piteously I let him off, 
and since then he has behaved pretty well. Still, no reliance is to 
be placed on him at the very moment when his services are most 
needed, and I intend to let him go as soon as I can get some one to 
take his place. 

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., September 29, 1862. 
Yesterday General Reynolds made his appearance, very much 
disgusted with his Pennsylvania campaign and militia, who he says 
behaved very badly, refused to come forward, and would not have 
stood five minutes if they had been attacked by one-tenth their num- 
ber. He hurried back here as soon as possible, knowing of course 
he would have command of the corps, as I could not expect Mc- 

1 General Meade's body-servant. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 315 

Clellan to put him under my command. We went to see McClellan 
together. He was very civil to me, said he would have to put Rey- 
nolds in command, but hoped in a few days to announce to both of 
us that we were major generals, which he had strongly urged on the 
Government. As yet the order has not been issued, but when it 
comes I shall subside gracefully into a division commander, though 
frankness compels me to say, I do wish Reynolds had stayed away, 
and that I could have had a chance to command a corps in action. 
Perhaps it may yet occur. At any rate, it would be great ingrati- 
tude in me to complain, after all my recent good fortune. 

McClellan said it was not his intention to immediately cross the 
river, unless it should rise and prevent the enemy's crossing, in which 
case he would cross and attack him. His most reliable intelligence 
led him to believe that they were falling back on Winchester, which 
is no more than reasonable, as I do not see how they can supply their 
army in so advanced a position as Martinsburg. I spoke to McClel- 
lan about the Reserves and their decimated condition, there being 
now not more than three thousand men for duty. I also told him 
that I had no idea they would ever be filled up by recruiting officers, 
and the only course I saw to adopt was to send them in a body back 
to Pennsylvania, and ask the Governor and State to fill them up 
within a specified time; but if it could not be done, they were to be 
mustered out of service. 

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., October 1, 1862. 

I note the canard about General Sickles taking command of 
Hooker's corps, which arose from the fact that General Sickles has 
been placed in command of Hooker's old division. So, also, I saw 
a brilliant account in Forney's "Press" of the battle of Antietam, in 
which the writer, confusing Hooker's division with his corps, speaks 
of the gallantry of Generals Patterson and Grover in leading the 
men; whereas Hooker's division was at Alexandria, when Grover 
was with it, and Patterson has been for some time in Philadelphia. 
But such is history. 

When Hooker placed me in command of the corps on the field, I 
immediately sought out Ricketts, told him I presumed there was a 
mistake, Hooker not knowing that he (Ricketts) outranked me, and 
I turned over the command to him, and only resumed it after getting 
the peremptory order from McClellan, which I sent you. Ricketts 
appreciated my course, and said there was no one he was more will- 



316 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

ing to serve under than myself, and that he only made his protest 
because he considered it a matter of principle. In this I think he 
was right, and I should have done the same thing myself, for I do 
not believe McClellan had the right to do as he did. 

I am very much flattered to hear that Mr. Binney 1 and other 
citizens desired to have me to defend Philadelphia. It was just as 
well, however, that they were refused; the service would have been 
temporary, and I should have lost the brilliant chances of the two 
battles. I envied Reynolds when he left for Harrisburg, and se- 
cretly thought the Governor might have applied for me. Afterwards 
— indeed, the next day, after South Mountain — I was grateful be- 
yond measure that I had been overlooked. In reference to George, 2 
I think he had better accept the appointment in Averiirs regiment, 
and not wait any longer for Rush. 3 In regard to my own staff, I 
have received a letter from Mr. Coxe, 4 in which he says his last hope 
is being elected into one of the Pennsylvania Reserve regiments. 
This amounts to nothing, because Seymour and Reynolds have pro- 
hibited elections in the division, and there have been none for some 
time. In the meantime, I have had two young men serving tempo- 
rarily on my staff. One is a Mr. Mason, belonging to one of the Re- 
serve regiments, and the other Mr. Dehon, of Boston, belonging to 
the Twelfth Massachusetts (Fletcher Webster's regiment). They 
are both very clever and active. 

In regard to Willie, your brother, I will see what can be done. 
The trouble is, both Seymour and Reynolds have got into a snarl 
with the Governor about elections, the Governor maintaining that 
he will not appoint without elections, and they (in orders) prohibiting 
elections and getting McClellan to give acting appointments, sub- 
ject to the approval of the Governor, which appointments are never 
submitted to the Governor for his approval. The consequence is 
there are a number of officers appointed who have never been com- 
missioned by the Governor, and who in reality have no commissions. 
This makes it very difficult to know what to do, and how to unravel 
the snarl that Seymour and Reynolds have got into. 

The news has just been brought into camp that the Southern 
Confederacy have sent Peace Commissioners to Washington. Alas, 

1 Horace Binney, of the Philadelphia Bar. 

2 George Meade, son of General Meade and compiler of this work. 

3 Richard H. Rush, colonel 6th Pa. Cavalry, known as "Rush's Lancers." 

4 Alexander Brinton Coxe, of Philadelphia. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 317 

I fear, they have left it too late, and that the day has gone by for 
any terms to be granted them except complete submission! Either 
one extreme or the other will have to come to pass — the day for com- 
promise, for a brotherly reconciliation, for the old Union, in reality 
as well as name, has passed away, and the struggle must be con- 
tinued till one side or the other is exhausted and willing to give up. 
Peace — oh, what a glorious word, and how sweet and delightful 
would its realization be to me! And if such is the case, how desir- 
able for thousands and thousands of others, who have not gained, as 
I have by war, distinction and fame ! 

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., October 5, 1862. 

Since writing to you the President of the United States has visited 
our camp and reviewed our corps. I had the distinguished honor of 
accompanying him to the battle-field, where General McClellan 
pointed out to him the various phases of the day, saying here it was 
that Meade did this and there Meade did that; which all was very 
gratifying to me. He seemed very much interested in all the move- 
ments of Hooker's corps. I do not know the purport of the Presi- 
dent's visit, but I think it was to urge McClellan on, regardless of his 
views, or the condition of the army. I think, however, he was in- 
formed of certain facts in connection with this army which have 
opened his eyes a little, and which may induce him to pause and re- 
flect before he interferes with McClellan by giving positive orders. 
For instance, the following, confidentially written: I prepared a 
statement, showing that Hooker's corps on paper was thirty-one 
thousand five hundred strong; that of this number there were pres- 
ent for duty only twelve thousand, and of these, a numerical list, 
made on the day of the battle, after we came out of action, showed 
only seven thousand. Hence, while the United States were paying, 
and the authorities at Washington were relying and basing their 
orders and plans on the belief that we had thirty-one thousand five 
hundred men, facts showed that we had in reality, on the field fight- 
ing, only nine thousand. As to the seven thousand that came out 
of the fight, we should add some two thousand killed and wounded 
in it. It would take too much time to explain this apparent para- 
dox. Suffice it to say, it results from a serious evil, due to the char- 
acter and constitution of our volunteer force, and from the absence 
of that control over the men, which is the consequence of the ineffi- 
ciency of the officers commanding them — I mean regimental and com- 



318 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

pany officers. Three days after the battle this corps numbered 
twelve thousand officers and men, though on the evening of the 
battle we could only muster seven thousand. Now, the difference 
of five thousand constituted the cowards, skulkers, men who leave 
the ground with the wounded and do not return for days, the strag- 
glers on the march, and all such characters, which are to be found 
in every army, but never in so great a ratio as in this volunteer force 
of ours. I believe all that saves us is the fact that they are no bet- 
ter off on the other side, and it is well known that on the 17th instant 
the roads to Winchester on the one side, and Hagerstown and Fred- 
erick on the other, were filled with men who turned their backs on 
their respective commands engaged in fighting. It is, from all I can 
learn, about as bad on one side as the other. 

To John Sergeant Meade: 1 

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., October 11, 1862. 
We have many rumors in regard to the changes in the command- 
ing general of this army, and it seems to be generally conceded that 
if McClellan is removed, Hooker will succeed him. Some say Mc- 
Clellan is again to be commanding general of the whole army at 
Washington, and Halleck is to return to the West, but I can hardly 
believe this. Hooker is a very good soldier and a capital officer to 
command an army corps, but I should doubt his qualifications to 
command a large army. If fighting, however, is all that is necessary 
to make a general, he will certainly distinguish himself. I am afraid 
Stuart's recent raid to Chambersburg will do McClellan serious in- 
jury, though at this season of the year, when the upper Potomac can 
be crossed almost anywhere, it was a physical impossibility with our 
force to prevent his crossing at some point. We are now trying to 
catch him on his way back, and I trust we shall succeed, though I 
expect he will make a wide sweep either to the westward or eastward 
and try to get around all our forces. 

To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., October 12, 1862. 
Hooker and I are old acquaintances. We were at West Point 
together, served in Mexico together, and have met from time to 

1 Son of General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 319 

time since. He is a very good soldier, capital general for an army 
corps, but I am not prepared to say as to his abilities for carrying on 
a campaign and commanding a large army. I should fear his judg- 
ment and prudence, as he is apt to think the only thing to be done 
is to pitch in and fight. He injured himself in Mexico by attaching 
himself to Pillow and his clique. Soon after the Mexican war, being 
in California, he resigned, did not succeed in private life, and at one 
time I understood he was quite low in fortune, and was glad to ac- 
cept the position of wagon-master. His want of success, added to 
other causes, led him at this time into dissipation, and many of his 
friends thought he was ruined and gone. At the commencement of 
these troubles he repaired to Washington, and through California 
influence procured one of the first appointments as brigadier general. 
At Williamsburg he did some desperate fighting, and had a flare up 
with Sumner and McClellan. Being always intimate with the Presi- 
dent, on McDowell's being relieved he got his corps, with which he 
was fortunate at South Mountain and Antietam. Now he is made, 
and his only danger is the fear that he will allow himself to be used 
by McClellan's enemies to injure him. Hooker is a Democrat and 
anti-Abolitionist — that is to say, he was. What he will be, when 
the command of the army is held out to him, is more than any one 
can tell, because I fear he is open to temptation and liable to be se- 
duced by flattery. 

McClellan does not seem to have made as much out of his opera- 
tions in Maryland as I had hoped he would, and as I think he is en- 
titled to. His failure to immediately pursue Lee (which Hooker 
would have done), and now this raid of Stuart's in our rear (for per- 
mitting which the public will hold McClellan accountable), will go 
far towards taking away from him the prestige of his recent victories. 
I don't wish you to mention it, but I think myself he errs on the side 
of prudence and caution, and that a little more rashness on his part 
would improve his generalship. 

Stuart's raid will undoubtedly interfere with our contemplated 
movements, for he destroyed at Chambersburg a large amount of 
clothing destined for this army, which the men are greatly in need 
of, and without which they can hardly move. 

October 13. 
Stuart has succeeded in eluding all our pursuing parties, and has 
crossed the Potomac near the mouth of the Monocacy, having passed 
completely around our army and stripped the country clean on his 



320 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

track. This is the third time the rascal has successfully accomplished 
this feat, and I think it is almost time we had learned how to meet 
and defeat him. I expected, however, that he would get off, because 
our cavalry was scattered, and could not be collected in time to op- 
pose him and cut him off. This will be a mortifying affair to 
McClellan, and will do him, I fear, serious injury. I am getting very 
tired of inactivity, and though I am not fond of fighting, yet if we 
have to do it, I think the sooner we get at it and have it over the 
better. I have just been to see Humphreys, who has a division of 
raw Pennsylvania troops right near us. I was mistaken in saying 
the Corn Exchange regiment was in his division. It is attached to 
the division commanded by Major General Morrell. 

Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., October 20, 1862. 
Our last advices from the enemy are that he is falling back from 
Winchester, but every hour and day bring their different report, and 
perhaps this afternoon we will hear he is advancing to cross the river. 
For my part I wish he would stay and meet us, for if he falls toward 
Richmond we shall be compelled to follow him, and it is getting too 
late to campaign in the northern part of Virginia, in consequence of 
the bad condition of the roads as soon as it begins to rain; whereas 
if he will only stay about Winchester, we can in one or two days' 
march come up with him. Everyone who returns to camp says that 
McClellan's position is most precarious, and that if he does not ad- 
vance soon and do something brilliant, he will be superseded. At 
the same time they do not, or will not, send from Washington the 
supplies absolutely necessary for us to have before we can move. I 
have hundreds of men in my command without shoes, going bare- 
footed, and I can't get a shoe for a man or beast. I had to send 
money to-day to Frederick to buy shoes, to have my horses shod, which 
article the Government is bound to furnish me with, and yet they 
won't send them. Our artillery horses and train animals have been 
literally starving, and have been suffering for the want of forage, and 
our men for the want of clothing, and yet we can't get these things. 



To John Sergeant Meade: 

Camp near Sharpsburg, October 23, 1862. 
We are in hourly expectation of marching orders. We have been 
detained here by the failure of the Government to push forward rein- 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 321 

forcements and supplies. You will hardly believe me when I tell 
you that as early as the 7th of this month a telegram was sent to 
Washington informing the Clothing Department that my division 
wanted three thousand pairs of shoes, and that up to this date not 
a single pair has yet been received (a large number of my men 
are barefooted) and it is the same thing with blankets, overcoats, 
etc., also with ammunition and forage. What the cause of this un- 
pardonable delay is I can not say, but certain it is, that some one is 
to blame, and that it is hard the army should be censured for inac- 
tion, when the most necessary supplies for their movement are with- 
held, or at least not promptly forwarded when called for. 



To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Camp near Berlin, Md., October 28, 1862. 

Day before yesterday we received orders to move to this place. 
We immediately started in a pouring rain, and marched some nine 
miles before nightfall. The next day the weather fortunately changed 
and we reached here in good time. This place is opposite Leesburg, 
already several corps have crossed the river, and we hear our people 
are in Leesburg. It is also reported that we have occupied Win- 
chester with our cavalry, without opposition, but this is not very 
reliable. At any rate we are about advancing, and it is for the enemy 
to say whether or not he will dispute our march, as I have before 
written to you, I hope he will, as the nearer we find him the better 
for us, and the more dangerous for him. This fact, however, leads 
me to believe he will fall back to the line of the Rappahannock, which 
will compel us to march some distance before we can get into his 
vicinity. I think my division will cross the river to-morrow. We 
have a pontoon bridge at this point, and bridges at Harper's Ferry 
some six miles above here. The army is crossing at both places, 
and I suppose will continue to advance towards Richmond until they 
meet with opposition. 

I see the papers state that McClellan has written the Department 
at Washington that he has been fully supplied with everything as 
fast as he called for it. This is false, and I know it to be false. I 
saw in another paper that the excuse given by the Department, for 
failing to supply the army, was the large and unexpected losses en- 
countered in the Pope campaign. 



322 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Camp near Berlin, Md., October 29, 1862. 

I am very glad you were so much pleased with Mr. Dehon. His 
visit to you was in truth a great compliment, because it was the sole 
cause of his stopping in Philadelphia. His son is a very clever young 
man, about twenty-two years of age, whom I accidentally encoun- 
tered when I was in command of the Army Corps, and very much in 
want of staff officers. He was recommended to me by young Will- 
iams, 1 on Rickett's staff, who simply said he was a gentleman. I 
have been so much pleased with him, that after my return to the 
Division, I retained him, although I hardly had that right, he be- 
longing to another division. His father, who has been a Boston 
democrat, was very prominent in getting up the Twelfth Regiment 
for Fletcher Webster. I presume this favor to him, for it was a 
favor, did much towards impressing him agreeably in regard to me. 
Now you will say this is my modesty and usual underrating of my 
exceeding great abilities. I must confess I was not aware that I 
was such a hero as you say the public declare me to be, and I fear 
it will take more than newspaper correspondents and your great love 
to make me believe I am anything more than an ordinary soldier 
conscientiously doing his duty. One thing, however, I am willing 
to admit, and that is, that I consider myself as good as most of my 
neighbors, and without great vanity may say that I believe myself 
to be better than some who are much higher. 

As to the termination of the war, I see no prospect of such a de- 
sirable result. A war so unnecessary must last till one or the other 
side is brought to its senses by the oppressive burdens that ensue. 
As yet, this state of affairs has not been reached. The South ac- 
cepts ruin, and is willing to have all its material interests destroyed 
if it can only secure its independence. The North, owing to the 
villainous system of paper money, the postponement of taxation and 
of the draft, has not yet realized the true condition of the country. 

Camp near Waterford, Va., November 1, 1862. 
I intended to have written you a long letter to-day, but just as 
I was getting ready, the orders for us to move on arrived. We crossed 
the river day before yesterday, and reached this camp. Yesterday I 
was busy exploring the country. I also had to go with Reynolds to 
see Burnside, who is near us. Among his officers I met young Pell, 
son of Duncan Pell, of New York, about whom I think I wrote to 

1 John Worthington Williams, of Philadelphia. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 323 

you during the Pope campaign. At any rate, Burnside sent him to 
Reynolds when we left Fredericksburg. On returning he was capt- 
ured and fell into the hands of A. P. Hill, who knowing Burnside 
very intimately, treated Pell with much kindness and distinction. 
Soon after his capture the battle of Bull Run began. Pell says he 
told Hill he would like to see the fun, whereupon Hill mounted him 
and took him on the field, where he (Pell) saw the whole battle. 
He says they were whipped the first day, and if we had only pressed 
them the second day they would have retreated. 

We are in a beautiful country, the valley of the Catoctin Creek, 
between Leesburg and Winchester. We do not hear much about the 
enemy. Tell Sergeant 1 to get you Lord's map of the state of Virginia, 
it gives a fair description and idea of localities. For instance, we are 
not far from Waterford now, and we expect to be near Hamilton 
to-night. 

Camp near Purcellville, Va., November 3, 1862. 

We yesterday moved to this place, which for a time placed us in 
the advance, but to-day Burnside has gone ahead of us, and I pre- 
sume to-morrow we shall push on again. It appears the enemy are 
still either in the Valley of the Shenandoah or are manoeuvring to 
make us believe so. To-day their cavalry in large force, with artil- 
lery, have been disputing the advance of our cavalry, and I under- 
stand this afternoon they displayed infantry. If this be the case, 
they either intend to give us battle in this valley, which lies between 
the Bull Run Mountains and the Mountains of the Shenandoah, or 
else they desire to check our advance and gain time to concentrate 
their forces in those mountain defiles, which the position of our forces 
seem to threaten. Of these gaps, or defiles, there are two principal 
ones, one called Ashby's Gap, through which the pike from Alexan- 
dria to Winchester runs; the other, Snicker's Gap, through which 
the pike from Leesburg to Winchester passes. One or the other of 
these, or probably both, we shall attempt to force, and they of course 
to dispute, in case they are going to remain at Winchester. Their 
infantry appearing would seem to indicate they feel strong enough 
to descend the mountain and meet us in this valley, which I think 
is all the better for us, as it would save us the trouble of forcing the 
mountain passes, which, after all, as at South Mountain, is only a 
preliminary step to the battle to be fought afterwards. It is not 
impossible, therefore, we may have a decisive battle in a day or two, 

1 Son of General Meade. 



324 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

of which perhaps the telegraph will give you notice before this reaches 
you. At the same time, they are so skillful in strategy, all their 
present movements may only be to cover the withdrawal of their 
army to Gordonsville and the line of the Rapidfcn. If it should 
prove so, as we will have immediately to follow them and attack 
them there, we might just as well do so here as to have to march 
some forty or fifty miles to do the same thing. We shall have, from 
all I can learn, about one hundred and thirty thousand men, nearly 
double our force at Antietam. I don't see how they can have doubled 
theirs, in which case we ought to outnumber them; and if we only 
do that, and are properly handled, victory is sure to be ours. 

I saw to-day General Willcox, our Detroit friend. I also saw 
Poe for a few minutes yesterday, looking very well, but very much 
disgusted at not being made a brigadier general. He told me he was 
in Washington a few days ago and saw General Halleck about his 
promotion, showing him letters from Generals Kearney, Hooker, 
Stoneman and others under whom he had served, warmly recom- 
mending his promotion. Halleck told him they were the strongest 
letters he had ever seen and proved most fully his claims, but said 
he: "To be frank with you, Colonel Poe, with only such letters (i. e., 
military evidence of fitness), your chances of promotion are about 
equal to those of a stumped-tail bull in fly-time." In other words, 
merit without political influence is no argument in your favor. Poe 
told me that Chandler was bitterly opposed to him and had de- 
nounced him to the War Department as disloyal, and that he had 
been compelled to file at the War Department evidences of his loy- 
alty. I told him he ought to have sent to you for a letter endorsing 
his Black Republicanism at Detroit in the spring of 1861, at which 
he laughed. He told me Kirby Smith had never been in a fight, and 
received his wound at Corinth, at the very commencement of the 
action, just as he was mounting his horse. He also said he heard 
the other day of Beckham, through an officer who was a prisoner, 
and that Beckham was chief of artillery to G. W. Smith's division. 
He knew nothing of Procter Smith, but understood he was in the 
Confederate service. 

Camp at Warrenton, Va., November 7, 1862. 

To-day Alexander Coxe 1 has arrived. He had a pretty hard time 
catching us, and had to ride yesterday nearly fifty miles. 

I have not had time to write to you for some days past, as we 

1 Alexander Brinton Coxe, aide-de-camp to General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 325 

have been marching all the time, and owing to the crowded state of 
the roads, we have been obliged to leave camp very early in the 
morning and be detained till late in getting in. One night it was 
twelve o'clock before we went into camp. Soon after I wrote you, 
our reconnoitering parties ascertained positively the enemy had been 
or were falling back from Winchester, when we immediately started 
to try and get ahead of them; an operation I never had the remot- 
est idea we would or could succeed in, as they are much less encum- 
bered with trains than we are, and are much better marchers. Our 
corps and division reached this place last evening, the storm and the 
necessity of waiting till the railroad to this place can be opened and 
supplies thrown forward, have delayed us somewhat. 

I note all you say about George. 1 He will have a comparatively 
pleasant time, and I will quote for your comfort a part of a secesh 
lady's letter recently captured (i. e., the letter) in which she says: "I 
want John (her son) to go into the cavalry, because I see that very few 
of that arm of the service are either killed or wounded, " which is a fact; 
we have not lost over a dozen cavalry officers since the war began. 

Camp near Warrenton, Va., November 8, 1862. 

To-day the order has been received relieving McClellan from duty 
with this army, and placing Burnside in command. I must confess 
I was surprised at this, as I thought the storm had blown over. If 
he had been relieved immediately after the battle of Antietam, or 
at any period before he moved, I could have seen some show of 
reason on military grounds. This removal now proves conclusively 
that the cause is political, and the date of the order, November 5th 
(the day after the New York election) confirms it. 

The army is filled with gloom and greatly depressed. Burnside, 
it is said, wept like a child, and is the most distressed man in the 
army, openly says he is not fit for the position, and that McClellan 
is the only man we have who can handle the large army collected to- 
gether, one hundred and twenty thousand men. We (the generals) 
are going to-morrow in a body to pay our respects and bid farewell 
to McClellan, who leaves in the afternoon. He is ordered to Trenton, 
N. J., to await further orders. 

Camp near Warrenton, Va., November 9, 1862. 
To-day, in company with the other generals of our corps, I called 
to see McClellan. Reynolds made a few remarks, saying we had 

1 Son of General Meade, lieutenant 6th Pa. Cav. — "Rush's Lancers." 



326 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

learned with deep regret of his departure and sincerely hoped he 
would soon return. McClellan was very much affected, almost to 
tears, and said that separation from this army was the severest blow 
that could be inflicted upon him. The army is greatly depressed. 

We have had quite a snow storm, and to-day, though clear, is 
very raw and cold. Our men suffer a good deal; what the South- 
erners do, without clothing or shelter of any kind, I cannot imagine. 
I should think their sufferings must be very much greater than ours. 
Sumner has returned, and it is said Hooker is coming. If he does, 
Reynolds will take my division, and I shall come down to a brigade. 
The removal of McClellan, however, will keep Hooker away, if he 
can possibly avoid coming, as I know he will not serve voluntarily 
under Burnside. Still, it is said Hooker has injured himself very 
much by his prolonged stay in Washington, where he has talked too 
much and too indiscreetly, and that he is not now half as strong as 
when he went there. 

Tell Sargie 1 I have received and perused with great interest the 
thrilling tale, in Peterson's, of the wonderful magnanimity of the 
Duke of Medina Sidonia. Such heroes don't live nowadays. 

Camp near Rappahannock Station, Va., November 13, 1862. 
Day before yesterday we moved to this position, some ten miles 
from Warrenton. On the same day McClellan left us, to the regret 
and sincere grief of the whole army. Yesterday, I am informed, 
Generals Halleck and Meigs made their appearance at Warrenton, 
and it is understood a grand council of war is to be held to-day. 
McClellan has always objected to operating on this line, and insisted 
on the James River as being the proper base for operations. Halleck, 
under Washington influence, has been trying to force operations on 
this line — that is, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Now, this 
road has but one track, and the distance from Alexandria to Gor- 
donsville is over one hundred and fifty miles. This distance and the 
known capacity of the road is insufficient by one-third to carry the 
daily supplies required for this army. This fact to an ordinarily 
intelligent mind, unbiased by ridiculous fears for the safety of Wash- 
ington, ought to be conclusive. The next line, and the one Burn- 
side favors as a compromise, is the one from Fredericksburg to Rich- 
mond. This is open to the same objection as the other, except it is 
only seventy-five miles. Still, it will require a larger army to pro- 
tect these seventy-five miles and keep open our communications than 

1 Son of General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 327 

it will to attack Richmond itself. What the result of the council 
will be, no one can tell; but, as I have above conjectured, it is prob- 
able that, if Burnside proves stubborn, he will be told he must give 
way to one who is more reasonable. I also hear that Hooker is at 
Warrenton, and has been placed in command of Fitz-John Porter's 
corps, Porter having been relieved and ordered to Washington. I 
have not seen Hooker, as he did not arrive at Warrenton till after I 
had left. His having command only of a corps, under Burnside, in 
command of the army, and Sumner in command of two corps, is 
decidedly a coming down for Hooker, from the expectations the army 
and the public had been led to indulge in from the tone of the public 
press; and confirms what I have told you, that Hooker talked him- 
self out in Washington. What we are coming to I cannot tell, but 
I must confess this interference by politicians with military men, and 
these personal intrigues and bickerings among military men, make me 
feel very sad and very doubtful of the future. It does seem as if 
Providence was against us, and that it was decreed we should not 
succeed as we ought to. The assigning of Hooker to Porter's corps 
leaves Reynolds, I presume, permanently in command of our corps, 
and will leave me undisturbed in command of my division. For this 
I ought to be, and am, duly grateful, and as some time since it was the 
height of my ambition to have a division, I suppose I ought to be 
satisfied with its accomplishment, which I would be, if I saw mat- 
ters going on in other respects as I think they ought to. 

The enemy, who for some time were disposed to dispute our ad- 
vance and had constant skirmishing with us, have been quiet for 
two days past. They are said to be in force at Culpepper Court 
House, some eighteen miles in our front, and Jackson, with a con- 
siderable body, is reported as being yet in the Valley of the Shenan- 
doah, waiting for a good chance to fall on our rear, and effect one of 
his bold and audacious raids. I look anxiously to see the result of 
McClellan's removal on the public mind. 

Camp near Rappahannock Station, November 14, 1862. 
Generals Halleck and Meigs, as I anticipated, objected to the 
change of base from the Orange and Alexandria Railroad to the 
Fredericksburg Railroad, but after discussion yielded their views to 
those of the general officers in command, and have returned to Wash- 
ington, to endeavor to obtain the sanction of the still greater general, 
Stanton. It is also understood the army is to be divided into three 



328 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

commands, each of two corps, to be commanded respectively by 
Sumner, Hooker and Franklin. Our corps is to be under Franklin. 
Baldy Smith takes Franklin's corps, and Sykes is to have Porter's 
corps. 

General McCall sent me Hooker's report of the battle of Glendale, 1 
and called on me, as the present commander of the division, to reply 
to it; but I answered him that I considered his being in command 
at that time constituted him the proper person to reply, and if not 
himself, then Seymour, who commanded the Third Brigade, which 
was on the left of our line and adjacent to Hooker's command. I 
further told McCall that I hardly thought it worth while to make 
any public reply to Hooker; that the reputation of the Reserves 
was now well established, and the facts of the New Market battle 
very generally known, and Hooker's report would carry its antidote 
with its bane. What McCall has done I do not know, as I have 
not heard from him since. I have no doubt a portion of Seymour's 
command did run through Hooker's line, but he has made the mis- 
take of confounding this portion of one brigade with the whole divi- 
sion, thus depriving us of the credit of having for four hours resisted 
an overwhelming onset of vastly superior numbers, and by this re- 
sistance, and the check which we gave the enemy, preventing his 
piercing our army, and enabling it that night to concentrate on the 
banks of the James River, which they never would have or could have 
effected if our whole division had run at the first fire, as Hooker charges. 

Camp near Rappahannock Station, November 16, 1862. 

To-day is Sunday. No church bells, or stream of well-dressed 
people on their way to church, or eloquent appeals from the pulpit 
for us poor fellows, doomed to practically set aside some of the most 
prominent of God's laws, in reference to charity and love to our 
neighbors. 

No orders have yet been received for our division to move, though 
it is understood Burnside's project has been approved and the move- 
ment towards Fredericksburg has commenced. I suppose some time 
in the course of to-day, or perhaps in the night, our orders will come, 
I have seen no one since leaving Warrenton, not even Reynolds, who 
has spent most of his time at that place pow-wowing with the big 
Indians, so that I am not posted up in plans, hopes, or fears. Sey- 
mour has been relieved from duty with this army, at his own request, 

1 Or New Market Road, June 30, 1862. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 329 

that he might go to a warmer climate. He left us this morning. 
Seymour was an excellent soldier, of good judgment, cool courage, 
and in time of action of great and valuable assistance, as I found at 
South Mountain and Antietam. As these are considerations of the 
utmost importance, his loss will be seriously felt by me. I have now 
but one brigadier under me, and he a promotion from one of the 
Reserve regiments — a very good man. The other two brigades are 
commanded by colonels, both West Pointers — one, Magilton, the 
other Sinclair, a young officer of artillery, will, I think, prove efficient 
and of assistance. 

Camp near Stafford Court House, Va., November 20, 1862. 

The occupation of the march the last few days has prevented my 
writing to you. I suppose you have seen in the papers the order 
dividing the army into three grand divisions, and giving the com- 
mand of certain corps to the senior officers on duty with those corps. 
This places General Butterfield in command of Porter's corps. Gen- 
eral Butterfield is my junior, and I am his only senior on duty with 
this army. I thought that both Stoneman and A. S. Williams had 
divisions, both of whom are my seniors; but to-day I find Stoneman 
has a corps and that Williams is not with this army, having been 
left on the Potomac. Hence I am the only general who is affected 
by the giving a corps to Butterfield. I saw to-day Franklin and 
Baldy Smith, who referred to this matter, and said Burnside did not 
know how to arrange it otherwise, and they thought if I made an appli- 
cation to Burnside and gave him any chance of acting, that he would 
assign me to the corps. This, however, is a very delicate matter, 
and I have seen several cases where such action has ended to the dis- 
comfiture of the protestant. I will, however, see Parke and have 
a talk with him, and see how the land lies, and if there is any pros- 
pect of effecting any good, I will act. I presume you understand the 
question. General Butterfield does not command me, but his com- 
mand being a corps, and I his senior, in command only of a division, 
I have a right to complain; just as I did when, in command of a 
brigade, so many of my juniors were commanding divisions. Again, 
Martindale belongs to that corps, and will doubtless, now that he 
is acquitted by the court, return to duty, and he is my senior, and 
would have the right to command it. 

I presume you have seen Halleck's letter in regard to the sup- 
plying of the army. It is a piece of special pleading well worthy the 
brain of General Halleck, but unfortunately there are too many facts 



330 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

in the possession of this army to disprove all he asserts, which I trust 
McClellan will now come out publicly and expose. My letters to 
you of themselves are sufficient evidence, and nearly every general 
officer in the army can testify to the same facts, viz., that their requi- 
sitions for clothing, ammunition and other supplies, made early in 
October, were not filled till the end of the month, just before the 
movement across the river began. But what are truths and facts 
against political and personal malice and vindictiveness? 

Camp near Stafford Court House, Va., November 22, 1862. 
It rained very hard all day yesterday, rendering the roads in this 
vicinity nearly impassable. The railroad from Acquia Creek to 
Fredericksburg will take ten days or two weeks to put in order, if it 
can be done in that time. In the meantime, we have to haul all our 
supplies from the landing at Acquia Creek, ten miles distant, over 
roads which are barely passable with half-loaded wagons, and which 
in a short time, from the great number of trains passing over them, 
will become impassable. Hence we have out, since we have been 
here, the greater portion of our command, trying to make the roads 
passable by corduroying them — a work of labor and time. I do not 
see how we can advance from the Rappahannock unless the weather 
should turn cold and freeze the ground. In view of these obstacles, 
it is most trying to read the balderdash in the public journals about 
being in Richmond in ten days. I question if we can get in the 
neighborhood of Richmond this winter, on this line. I have no doubt 
the attempt is to be made and an effort to force us on, but I predict, 
unless we have a cold spell, freezing the ground, that we will break 
down, lose all our animals, experience great suffering from want of 
supplies, and if the enemy are at all energetic, meet with a check, if 
not disaster. All this comes from taking the wrong line of opera- 
tions, the James River being the true and only practicable line of 
approach to Richmond. But I have always maintained that Rich- 
mond need not and should not be attacked at all; that the proper 
mode to reduce it is to take possession of the great lines of railroad 
leading to it from the South and Southwest, cut these and stop any 
supplies going there, and their army will be compelled to evacuate 
it and meet us on the ground we can select ourselves. The blind in- 
fatuation of the authorities at Washington, sustained, I regret to say, 
by Halleck, who as a soldier ought to know better, will not permit 
the proper course to be adopted, and we shall have to take the con- 
sequences. Perhaps the difficulty of moving may become so great 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 331 

and apparent that we will be compelled to go into winter quarters 
here, but this will be resisted to the last by the sages at Washington. 
I could not get to General Burnside's headquarters either yesterday 
or the day before, although his camp is only six miles from mine, 
but the condition of the roads, and the rise in a creek between us, 
effectually cut off all communications. 

Camp near Acquia Creek, November 23, 1862. 

We moved here yesterday to be on the railroad, nearer to our 
supplies, for the condition of the roads was such that there was danger 
of starvation from the impossibility of hauling loaded wagons over 
them. 

You will see by the papers that the enemy have appeared at 
Fredericksburg, and evinced a disposition to dispute our crossing the 
river and occupying that place. I think this is only to gain time, and 
do not believe they have any very serious intentions of fighting here, 
as it is decidedly against their interest. Their policy is to draw us 
as far as possible from the Potomac and then to attack our rear, cut 
off if possible our lines of communication and supply, and compel us, 
in order to keep these open, so to weaken our force in front as to 
prevent our attacking them, and enabling them, if they can collect 
sufficient force, to attack us. Of course, they will dispute every 
available point on the road, and hold us in check at each place as 
long as they can, but I do not look for any general engagement till 
we get to the junction of the Gordonsville and Richmond Road, which 
is some fifteen miles from the latter place and some forty-five miles 
from Fredericksburg. The work of repairing the road between 
Acquia Creek and Fredericksburg progresses very slowly. We may 
perhaps be favored by weather after getting across the Rappahan- 
nock. If the cold weather sets in and freezing the ground makes 
the roads passable, we may be able to leave Fredericksburg with 
sufficient provisions and ammunition to push ahead and fight a big 
battle wherever we may meet the enemy. If we prove victorious, 
we can at our leisure bring up supplies; and if defeated, we will have 
little to encumber us on our retreat. I presume this is the project, 
though I have no knowledge but my own surmises. 

Camp near Acquia Creek, November 24, 1862. 
Yesterday, being Sunday, after I had penned a few lines to you, I 
determined I would go and see Burnside and ascertain whether there 



332 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

was any meaning in his recent action. On my way (for Burnside's 
headquarters were eight miles off) I accidentally passed Hooker's 
headquarters, where I at once stopped and found Hooker at home. 
Hooker was very civil, asked if you had sent me a copy of his letter 
to Halleck, said he had written another since his return to the army, 
and that I should have two stars if he could get them. Of course I 
thanked Hooker very warmly. I spoke then of the object of my visit 
to headquarters, as Butterfield is in Hooker's grand division, and I 
found them camping together. Hooker said he thought McClellan 
had behaved very badly to me in putting Reynolds over me, as he 
should have found some other place for Reynolds. This of course I 
expected, for from what passed I evidently saw that all the entente 
cordiale, if any ever existed, was gone between Hooker and McClel- 
lan. Hooker spoke very freely; said at one time he expected to have 
the Army of the Potomac, but that Halleck would not go West, 
though McClellan was willing to return to Washington as general in 
chief. Hooker gave one or two hits at Burnside, and rather hinted 
it might not be very long yet before he was in command. After get- 
ting through with my talk with Hooker, I went on to Burnside's 
headquarters and saw him, luckily finding him alone. I said, play- 
fully, I had come to pick a crow with him. About what? he imme- 
diately asked. I told him the state of the case. He promptly as- 
sured me he was until that moment perfectly ignorant that I ranked 
Butterfield; that he agreed with me in all I said; that he would 
rather have me in command of the corps; that Butterfield's assign- 
ment was only temporary; that he would inquire what probability 
there was of Sedgwick or any other senior officer being sent, and if 
there was none, and there was a probability of the position being 
open for any time, that I should certainly have it, as I was the last 
man he would set aside or slight in any way. I told him I knew 
there was no intention on his part to slight me, or prejudice my rank, 
and that I felt satisfied when I came, that he was not aware of the 
relative rank of Butterfield and myself; indeed, that it was only within 
a day or two that I had become apprised of the fact that Butterfield 
had the corps, and that I was his only senior present in command of 
a division. Hence I had made no written protest and now made no 
claim to the command; I had simply come to let him know the true 
state of the case, and should leave all further action to him, confid- 
ing in his good feeling always expressed for me. I stayed but a short 
time, as it was near dark, and I had eight miles to ride home. I came 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 333 

away, however, quite satisfied there had been no intention to do me 
any injustice, and that had Burnside known of the true state of the 
case, he would originally have assigned me to the corps. I do not 
want it if it is to be for only a few days, to give place to some other 
senior, and don't mind not being assigned, now that I am satisfied 
nothing personal was meant. Burnside told me the enemy were evi- 
dently concentrating their forces near Fredericksburg, and he thought 
we should have to fight before we could advance from there. I can- 
not believe they will risk a great battle, under circumstances so fa- 
vorable for us, as, if they are defeated, at such a distance from Rich- 
mond, they cannot prevent our following them right up to that city. 
On the other hand, if we are defeated, we have only fifteen miles to 
get back to our gunboats and supplies. We are now waiting to re- 
pair the road from Acquia Creek to Fredericksburg, accumulate sup- 
plies and get up our pontoon bridges, when we will cross the river. 
I have no doubt they will dispute the passage of the river and en- 
deavor to check us as much as possible; but whether they will risk 
a general battle at or near Fredericksburg remains to be seen. 

Camp near Acquia Creek, November 25, 1862. 
I have received your letters of the 20th and 22d inst., giving an 
account of George's 1 departure for his regiment. We have had one 
or two very fine days; the railroad is repaired some seven miles of 
the fifteen. A wharf at the landing has been constructed, and trains 
are carrying supplies as far as the road is open. In the meantime, 
the enemy are said to be concentrating at Fredericksburg, and the 
impression gains ground that our passage of the river will be dis- 
puted, and that they will give us battle here. Our course is plain — 
to go ahead — and as we shall have to fight them somewhere, the less 
distance we have to go the better for us. I am still, however, of the 
opinion that they will only try to check us at the river, and will not 
risk a general battle. 

Camp near Brooks Station, Va., November 30, 1862. 
I received this evening your letter of the 28th, enclosing one from 
George. 1 George's letter is written not only in good spirits, but in 
the right spirit, and gratified me very much. I trust he will always 
look upon men and things in the same sensible light, in which case 
he will avoid much of the trouble that young men are so apt to en- 

1 Son of General Meade. 



334 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

counter, from thinking those over them are always inferior, and that 
they know so much better what ought to be done than those whose 
business it is to decide. I had heard before you wrote that Rush's 
regiment was ordered here. General Bayard told me the regiment 
was ordered to his brigade, which is encamped right alongside of me. 
I said I was glad to hear it, because George had just been commis- 
sioned in it and had joined. Bayard, who knows George and all 
about him, at once said, "I will take him on my staff;" but I said 
no; I want him to see some service with his company, and learn to 
command men and be initiated in the details of service, before he 
goes on the staff. Bayard replied, "You are right." I certainly 
think it is better for a young officer to serve with his regiment be- 
fore accepting a staff appointment. Coxe had a letter from his 
brother dated on Thanksgiving Day, three days after George's. He 
says they had a dreadful time on the scout (George writes he is or- 
dered on), having to ride seventy-five miles in one day, and that his 
horse (Coxe's) is completely used up. He says he (C.) is attached 
to one of the two new companies, which are to be left at Frederick, 
under Major Morris, 1 the rest of the regiment being ordered to join 
Franklin immediately. So I shall look for George every day, whom 
I shall really be glad to see. You must have had, from your account, 
a most dismal Thanksgiving dinner. I did not know it was Thanks- 
giving Day till I heard some one complain of not having a turkey for 
dinner. 

Camp near Brooks Station, Va., December 2, 1862. 

Yesterday I rode over to headquarters and saw General Burnside. 
As usual, he was very civil and polite. While we were talking he 
got a telegram announcing the promotion of Reynolds and some half 
a dozen of brigadiers. He said there were two names on the list 
ahead of Reynolds; one was Senator Rice, of Minnesota, and the 
other Brigadier General Berry, of Maine, who has been in service some 
time. I also understood that only nine appointments to major-gen- 
eralcies were to be made. I am very glad Reynolds is promoted, for 
I have always thought he deserved it for his services at Mechanics- 
ville. Reynolds is a man who is very popular and always impresses 
those around him with a great idea of his superiority. 

I could not find out from Burnside what we are likely to do. 
Some say we are to cross the river immediately, but I see no signs 

1 Robert Morris, Jr., of Philadelphia. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 335 

of any such movement. Hooker is very anxious for a move and is 
talking very freely about our delay. At Burnside's I met Franklin, 
who invited me to his quarters to eat a turkey. I went over with 
him and had a very pleasant dinner, and in the evening a quiet game 
of whist. 

Camp near Brooks Station, Va., December 3, 1862. 
As to McClellan's whitewashing of Meigs, if you will read his 
letter carefully, you will find he says " he never in any despatch cen- 
sured General Meigs; he only said his army wanted clothing, and it 
had not been supplied, and he could not move till it was." Now, this 
is very ingenious, and is on the principle of the children's expression, 
"If the shoe pinches," etc. Still, I am willing to admit — and you 
know I told his mother so last August — McClellan has been silent 
too long. Have you seen the published extracts from the pamphlet 
of the Prince de Joinville? This is the clearest and most reliable 
vindication of McClellan's military character which has yet appeared. 
You do not do me justice in regard to McClellan. I know and see 
his faults as well as you do, but I cannot for this reason ignore his 
capacity. I am still of the opinion that he has been badly treated, 
and no failure on his part to do justice to others will cause me to fail 
to do justice to him. 

December 5, 1862. 

I know you will be delighted to see George's 1 handwriting, and 
on the same sheet with mine. George is looking very well and seems 
delighted with his position. He gives a very good account of his 
company and regiment. 

We are going to move to-morrow—that is to say, we are ordered 
to — but as it has been snowing and raining all day, and is snowing 
now, I fear the condition of the roads will be such that our progress 
will not be very fast. However, this kind of work is what we are to 
expect for the future, so we might as well make up our minds to it, 
and take it as it comes. 

The paper received to-day contains General Halleck's official re- 
port, which confirms what I previously surmised — that he was respon- 
sible for Pope's campaign, which he attempts most lamely to vindicate. 
McClellan's letter to him from Harrison's Landing is most able, and 
his reply most impotent. 

1 Son of General Meade. 



336 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Camp near Brooks Station, Va., December 6, 1862. 

I have just sent you a telegram announcing that I had received 
from Washington notice by telegraph of my promotion. I am truly 
glad, for your sake as well as my own. 

I wrote you a few lines last night, at the end of George's letter. 
Soon after closing, an order came countermanding our marching, 
owing to the storm. The weather is very cold to-night, everything 
freezing hard; but with my stove and buffalo robe, and with the 
good news of to-day, I bid defiance to the weather. 

Camp near Fredericksburg, Va., December 9, 1862. 
I have not written for two days, having been occupied with the 
march, as we had to change camp from our position near Acquia 
Creek Landing to our present location, near the Rappahannock River. 
The day we moved camp (yesterday) it was very cold, and the ground 
frozen hard, so that our teams found no difficulty in coming the ten 
miles of distance. The day before George's regiment moved over 
here, when Colonel Smith, commanding, took a wrong road, so that 
they had to march some twenty miles and did not reach their camp 
till late at night, and as their wagons did not arrive till the next 
morning, they had to pass the night, a bitter cold one, in the woods, 
without supper or blankets. However, they borrowed some axes and 
made big fires, and had, George said, quite a jolly time. George 
dined with us to-day, and I was at his camp yesterday. The more 
I see of the regiment, the better satisfied I am with George's being 
in it. The officers, as a body, are very much superior to any others 
(except the regulars), and there is a tone, altogether, which is very 
marked and gratifying. The regiment has been detailed to do duty 
with Franklin's grand division and separated from Bayard's com- 
mand. This they do not like, because it cuts them off in a measure 
from chances of distinction; but this, I fancy, will be no great ob- 
jection in your mind. I have seen friend Harding's kind notice of 
my promotion in the Inquirer. I presume you notified him of my 
telegram. I hope we have not counted our chickens before incuba- 
tion, but as yet nothing official has reached me. 

Camp near Fredericksburg, Va , December 10 — Midnight. 
To-morrow we shall cross the river, and I think, from all I can 
learn, may possibly have an engagement with the enemy. You must 
excuse the brevity of this, as we start at five to-morrow morning. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 337 

Keep up your spirits, and don't believe any news but what comes in 
a reliable shape. Of course no man can go into action without run- 
ning risks, but our heavenly Father has shown us so much mercy and 
loving kindness hitherto, that we may pray for its continuance and 
hope for the best. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, Va., December 16, 1862. 
I hope you received my telegram sent on the evening of the 13th 
inst., announcing my safety. 1 It was out of my power to write, and 
no mails were permitted to leave the camps, and the telegram I only 
smuggled through the kindness of Seth Williams. I almost forget 
when I wrote you last, but I think it was on the 10th inst. The next 
day we moved down to the river bank and commenced throwing 
over bridges at two points, one opposite the town, the other about 
two miles lower down. Franklin's grand division was assigned to 
the last position. The bridges were finished by the afternoon of the 
11th without any opposition at our place, but with much trouble 
and quite severe loss at the town. On the 12th we crossed. Sumner 
at the town, Franklin below, and Hooker remaining in reserve. On 
the 13th it was determined to make an attack from both positions, 
and the honor of leading this attack was assigned to my division. I 
cannot give you all the details of the fight, but will simply say my 
men went in beautifully, carried everything before them, and drove 
the enemy for nearly half a mile, but finding themselves unsupported 
on either right or left, and encountering an overwhelming force of 
the enemy, they were checked and finally driven back. As an evi- 
dence of the work they had to do, it is only necessary to state that 
out of four thousand five hundred men taken into action, we know 
the names of eighteen hundred killed and wounded. There are be- 
sides some four hundred missing, many of whom are wounded. All 
the men agree it was the warmest work the Reserves had ever en- 
countered. I cannot enumerate all the casualties, but among them 
was poor Dehon, 2 who fell pierced through the heart and expired al- 
most immediately. Yesterday, under a flag, we found his body, and 
Coxe has taken it this morning to Washington. I had become very 
much attached to Dehon for his many excellent qualities, and it does 
seem as if the good luck that attends me is to be made up in the mis- 
fortunes of my staff. I was myself unhurt, although a ball passed 

1 Battle of Fredericksburg, December 11-15, 1862. Federal loss, killed, 
wounded, and missing, 12,653 (O. R.).. 

2 Arthur Dehon, 1st lieutenant 12th Regt. Mass. Vols., and A. D. C. to Gen- 
eral Meade. 



338 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

through my hat so close, that if it had come from the front instead 
of the side, I would have been a " goner." The day after the battle, 
one of their sharpshooters took deliberate aim at me, his ball passing 
through the neck of my horse. The one I was riding at the time 
was a public horse, so that Baldy and Blacky are safe. Our attack 
on the left failed; same result on the right, though with greater loss 
and without the eclat we had, because we drove them for some dis- 
tance and took some six hundred prisoners. The fact being, as I 
advised you, they had prepared themselves, in a series of heights 
covered with woods, where they had constructed redoubts and con- 
nected them with rifle pits, so that it was pretty much one fortifica- 
tion. On the town side, the works were so near that our people 
could make no progress out of the town, they coming immediately 
under the fire of the works. The 14th and 15th were spent in recon- 
noissances and deliberations, the result of which was, that last night 
we had the humiliation to be compelled to return this side of the river; 
in other words, acknowledge the superior strength of the enemy and 
proclaim, what we all knew before, that we never should have crossed, 
with the force we have, without some diversion being made on the 
James River in our favor. What will be done next I cannot tell. 
Burnside, I presume, is a dead cock in the pit, and your friend Joe 
Hooker (fighting Joe) is the next on the list, except that it is said 
fighting Joe recommended the withdrawal of the army. This opera- 
tion was most successfully effected before daylight this morning, the 
enemy not having the slightest intimation until it was too late. I 
have seen George 1 this morning; his regiment was over here nearly all 
the time, as there was no use for cavalry. Among the killed was poor 
Bayard, who was struck by a cannon shot while sitting under a tree. 
His loss is universally regretted. The day before we crossed, late in 
the evening, I got your letter of the 6th, and Mr. Stanton's impor- 
tant one dated November 29th, 1862. 2 It was a very handsome 
compliment he paid you in transmitting it through you, which means, 
I should infer, that he would make you a major general if he could, 
and, that you had made me. Do you think major general sounds 
any better than brigadier? 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, Va., December 17, 1862. 
I wrote to you yesterday, giving a short account of the battle of 
the 13th, and my share of the same. You must, however, look to the 
newspapers for the details, although as usual they seem to ignore the 

1 Son of General Meade. 2 Appointing him major-general U. S. Volunteers. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 339 

Pennsylvania Reserves, except the New York Herald, which I under- 
stand says that we ran scandalously at the first fire of the enemy. 
This is the harder, because I saw the Herald correspondent on 
the field, and he might have known and indeed did know better. 
What his object in thus falsifying facts was I cannot imagine, but I 
would advise him not to show himself in our camp if he values his 
skin, for the men could not be restrained from tarring and feather- 
ing him. I believe I told you that yesterday I wrote to Burnside, 
officially informing him I had received my appointment as major 
general. To-day I went to see him to ascertain if there was any 
chance of my slipping away for a few days. He said he would be 
glad to let me go, but that he proposed to give me the Fifth Corps, 
now commanded by Butterfield. I told him, in that case I did not 
want to go. He said the order would have been issued to-day, but 
that Hooker (in whose grand division the Fifth is) objected to a 
change of commander in the midst of active operations. I expressed 
great surprise at this, and referred to Hooker having urged my as- 
signment to his corps on the field of battle, and spoke of the letter 
he had written to Halleck urging my promotion. Burnside said 
Hooker had explicitly remarked his opposition was not personal to 
me, for he considered me one of the most splendid soldiers in the 
army; but it was on the principle of not changing commanders alone 
that he objected. Burnside finally said he was going up to see Hal- 
leck, and unless he ascertained they were going to send someone 
senior to me, he should put me there, and all that he regretted now 
was that I had not been in command of it the other day. More than 
this I could not ask. 

I have received your letter by Clem. Barclay. Poor fellow, he 
did not know till his arrival that his nephew (Dr. B.'s of the navy's 
son) was killed in Chapman Biddle's regiment. This regiment be- 
haved very well and did good service. You will probably see Alex- 
ander Coxe in Philadelphia. I sent him up to Washington with the 
bodies of Dehon and General Jackson, and told him, after turning 
them over to their relatives, he might run up to Philadelphia for a 
few days. He will tell you all about the fight. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, December 20, 1862. 
My last letter was dated the 17th instant. Since that day I have 
been quite busy moving camp, and to-day have been occupied in 
writing my official report of the recent battle. I am quite anxious 



340 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

to know what you think and hear of my doings. For my part, the 
more I think of that battle, the more annoyed I am that such a great 
chance should have failed me. The slightest straw almost would 
have kept the tide in our favor. We had driven them for some dis- 
tance. Lee in his report acknowledges that two brigades of A. P. 
Hill's division gave way before our attack. All we had to do was to 
have held our own, to have organized on the hill we had gained, and 
prepared for their assault till our reinforcements could get up. In- 
stead of that, owing to the death of General Jackson and the wounding 
of Colonel Sinclair, two brigades were without commanders. It being 
in the woods, and no one being able to see what was going on around, 
our men pushed too far, and got right on a large body of the enemy, 
drawn up in line ready to receive them. Of course they immediately 
poured in a deadly fire, which staggered my disorganized line, and 
finally drove it back, with the loss of all it had gained. Had it been 
otherwise — that is to say, had we held the position gained till our 
reinforcements came up — I should have been the great hero of the 
fight, as every other attack had not only failed, but without even the 
success we could boast of. Well, I suppose it is all for the best, and 
cannot be helped; but it made me feel worse at the time than if we 
had been repulsed from the first. Yesterday I went to see Burnside, 
and found him engaged with the War Investigating Committee of 
Congress. They were just going to lunch and insisted on my going 
in. Zach. Chandler, Ben. Wade, John Covode and others were there, 
all of whom treated me with great distinction, particularly Covode, 
who claimed me as a Pennsylvanian. Old Chandler inquired very af- 
fectionately after you, but did not refer to your loyalty. They exam- 
ined Burnside, Sumner, Hooker and Franklin. What the result will 
be I don't know, though it is said John Covode affirmed that when he 
got back he was going to raise a howl, and intimated it would not be 
against Burnside. Burnside proved that the crossing of the river 
had been peremptorily ordered from Washington, in the face of his 
opinion and of the majority of his principal officers. It is understood 
Halleck says: "This army shall go to Richmond, if it has to go on 
crutches," which (as over ten thousand cripples were made the other 
day) seems likely to occur before long. The army are willing enough 
to go to Richmond, if they could only see the way to get there. Two 
routes have already been tried this fall — the one by Gordonsville and 
this by Fredericksburg. Both have failed, and the only one deemed 
by military men as practicable they obstinately refuse to let us take 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 341 

— by the Peninsula. In our new camp I have fortunately got a room 
in a house for my headquarters, so that I am quite comfortable. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, Va., December 23, 1862. 
Burnside returned last night from Washington, and to-day he has 
issued an order placing me in command of the Fifth Army Corps. 
As this step has not been taken without considerable deliberation, 
and after consultation with Halleck and the Secretary, I am in hopes 
that it will be more permanent than my assignment to the First 
Corps, which lasted only ten days. Burnside says they treated him 
very well in Washington, which I don't doubt, after seeing his letter 
to Halleck, wherein he assumes all the responsibility of the recent 
movement and failure. To-day's Washington National Republican 
comes out openly, denouncing him as incompetent, and demand- 
ing he either resign or be removed. I think he would personally 
have no objection to their removing him, and that he is quite in- 
dependent of them; willing to remain if they let him alone, but 
perfectly willing to retire if they desire him to. On my way to Burn- 
side's to-day I called and picked up George, 1 whom I carried with me 
and introduced him to Burnside. Alexander Coxe got back yester- 
day, and brought the champagne I ordered, and I immediately sent 
for Franklin, Smith, Reynolds, Brooks and others to join in celebrat- 
ing my promotion. Whereupon it was unanimously agreed that Con- 
gress ought to establish the grade of lieutenant general, and that they 
would all unite in having me made one, provided I would treat with 
such good wine. To-morrow I report to Hooker and take command. 

Headquarters Fifth Army Corps, December 26, 1862. 
After Burnside's return from Washington, which I think took 
place about the 23d, he issued an order placing me in command of 
this corps, and directing me to report to General Hooker for that 
purpose. Accordingly I rode over to Hooker's, on the 24th, and found 
Butterfield and himself together. Butterfield observed soon after 
my arrival, that Hooker had just informed him of the order assign- 
ing me here. I said "Yes, I have come to report for duty." After 
a few moments Butterfield left, when Hooker said, " I told Burnside, 
when he informed me of his intention, that there was no officer in 
the army I would prefer to you, were the corps without a commander 
and the question of selection open, but Butterfield having been placed 

1 Son of General Meade. 



342 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

there and having discharged the duties to my satisfaction, particu- 
larly through the late battle, I deemed myself authorized to ask that 
he might be retained." He made some further remarks about noth- 
ing personal being intended, and then turned to his table and issued 
the order relieving Butterfield, and placing me in command. I re- 
turned to my camp, and yesterday moved over here. After the first 
ice was broken, Butterfield was very civil. He insisted on me eating 
my Christmas dinner with him, and really had a very handsome en- 
tertainment, at which were present all the division and brigade com- 
manders of the corps. After dinner, when they had all left, to give 
Butterfield a chance, I told him I considered he was fully justified in 
being disappointed and put out; that if I had been assigned to a 
corps in disregard of the rank of others, been retained there for a 
month, gone through a battle and then removed on account of rank, 
I should myself, as I had experienced in a similar instance, feel very 
much annoyed and disgusted, and that I considered such feelings 
natural. Poor Butterfield then opened his heart, I having hit the 
nail on the head, and told me that when first assigned he went to 
Burnside and asked whether it was a temporary affair, or not, as he 
should arrange matters somewhat differently if he was only to hold 
the position till some senior brigadier or major general came along, 
and that Burnside assured him positively and distinctly that it was 
permanent, and that he should not be disturbed. I said certainly 
that aggravated the matter, but that he should not hold me respon- 
sible; that the mistake and misfortune resulted from the injustice 
that was done me when he was first assigned, and that General Burn- 
side had told me, per contra, that he was ignorant at the time that I 
ranked him (Butterfield). So to-day I have been installed, and the 
affair appears to be definitely and satisfactorily settled. 

I have received a very handsome letter from Mr. Dehon, thank- 
ing me most gratefully for all I have done for his poor boy, and 
speaking most feelingly of his loss. I really feel for him, for they 
were wrapped up in each other. 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, Va., December 30, 1862. 
I have received your letters of the 25th and 27th. I saw the 
piece in the Inquirer you refer to, and it was certainly very hand- 
some, as well as the editorial. I trust, however, I shall be able to 
live up to my advertisements. It was very civil in Reynolds to call 
on you. I am not surprised he did not indulge in any complimentary 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 343 

remarks about me, because, in the first place, Reynolds is a man who 
never says or does such things. He is a very good fellow, and I have 
had much pleasant intercourse with him during the past eighteen 
months, and considering how closely we have been together and the 
natural rivalry that might be expected, I think it is saying a good 
deal for both that we have continued good friends. I fear all hopes 
of getting home for the present have disappeared. Yesterday we 
had orders to be in readiness to move at twelve hours* notice, which 
means, I presume, (though I know nothing) that an advance is con- 
templated; whether we will cross above or below is a matter of 
conjecture; or whether we will cross at all. Still, so long as there is 
a talk of moving, I am kept here. To-day it is raining; a few days' 
rain will stop all movement. 



To John Sergeant Meade: 1 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, December 31, 1862. 

Your kind letter, dated Christmas, was received yesterday, and 
I am very much obliged to you for your affectionate remembrance of 
me. You say truly, we have a great deal to be thankful for, and 
when we consider the distress and mourning that is around us, our 
hearts ought to be filled with gratitude for the mercy that has been 
extended. 

John 2 is very much pleased at George's 3 being here, and takes great 
interest in all that relates to him. George has taken a great fancy to 
a little black mare I have, belonging to the Government, which he 
has given me various hints he thought I might buy and present to 
him, and in this little scheme to diminish my finances to the tune of 
one hundred and twenty dollars, he has the hearty co-operation of 
Master John, who regularly informs me every morning he thinks the 
boy ought to have the black mare. 

I have sent George's name to the President for appointment as 
one of my aides, with the rank of captain. 

To-day is my wedding and birthday. To-day I enter on the 
forty-seventh year of my life and the twenty-third of my wedded 
existence. I had hoped to spend this day with your dear mother 
and my darling children, but my promotion to the Fifth Corps and 
the number of generals that have been sent to testify before the 

1 Son of General Meade. 2 General Meade's body-servant. 

3 Son of General Meade. 



344 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Porter and McDowell courts have prevented my getting away. 
Should it be decided the army is to go into winter quarters, I may 
yet have a chance, though I hardly have much hope. 



To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, January 2, 1863. 
I think I wrote you we were on the eve of a movement, but day 
before yesterday Burnside got a telegram from the President direct- 
ing him to suspend preparations and come to Washington. Burn- 
side proceeded there post-haste, and was much astonished by the 
President telling him that a deputation of his (Burnside's) generals 
had called on him to protest against any further attempt to cross 
the river, and asking him to stop Burnside. Burnside asked the 
names of these officers, which the President declined giving. He 
then resigned his command, which the President refused to accept. 
He then made a written protest against Stanton and Halleck, which 
he read to the President in their presence, stating that neither had 
the confidence of the people nor the army, and calling on him to re- 
move them and himself. To this they made no reply, and the Presi- 
dent would not receive his paper, though he took no offense at its 
contents. Finding he could get nothing out of any of them, he came 
back, and thus matters stand. Burnside told me all this himself 
this morning, and read me his paper, which was right up and down. 
All this is confidential. God only knows what is to become of us 
and what will be done. No one in Washington has the courage to 
say or do anything beyond hampering and obstructing us. Burnside 
is in favor of advancing, but he is opposed by his principal generals 
■ — Sumner, Franklin and Hooker. I had a long talk with Franklin 
yesterday, who is very positive in his opinion that we cannot go to 
Richmond on this line, and hence there is no object in our attempt- 
ing to move on it. I agreed with him on the impracticability of this 
line, but I did not think for that reason we ought to stand still, be- 
cause we must move some time or other in some direction, and we 
are every day growing weaker, without any hope of reinforcements 
in future. In April, thirty-eight two-year regiments, from New York, 
and all the nine-month men go out of service. This is a serious con- 
sideration. Now, while I am not in favor of reattempting to cross 
here, yet I was in favor of crossing, if a suitable place could be found 
above or below, where we could rapidly cross and attack them before 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 345 

they could get ready to receive us, and I believed we could whip 
them, and a victory, I did not care under what circumstances, gained, 
or with what results followed, would be of immense advantage to us. 
Failing in this, I was for marching down to Urbana, sixty miles below 
here, where we could cross any time under cover of the gunboats, and 
from whence we had only twenty miles to West Point, the terminus of 
the York River Railroad. I agreed with Franklin that the James River 
was our proper and only base; but as they were determined in Wash- 
ington that we should not go there, I thought, rather than stand still, 
we ought to attempt a practicable, though less desirable, line; and 
should that be forbidden, I was still in favor of making an attempt 
to whip them, if there was any reasonable probability of our doing 
so, even though we should not be either able or desirous of following 
up our victory. So you see I am among the fire-eaters, and may per- 
haps jeopardize my reputation by being too decided. But the fact 
is, I am tired of this playing war without risks. We must encounter 
risks if we fight, and we cannot carry on war without fighting. That 
was McClellan's vice. He was always waiting to have everything 
just as he wanted before he would attack, and before he could get 
things arranged as he wanted them, the enemy pounced on him and 
thwarted all his plans. There is now no doubt he allowed three dis- 
tinct occasions to take Richmond slip through his hands, for want of 
nerve to run what he considered risks. Such a general will never 
command success, though he may avoid disaster. 

I send you a piece from a Boston paper on poor Dehon, sent to 
me by some friend or relative. It does no more than justice to Dehon, 
who was a gallant officer and clever gentleman. I have felt his loss 
even more than poor Kuhn's, because, in his case, I was directly in- 
strumental in placing him where he received his death wound, though 
at the time I sent him I had no idea of the great danger attending 
his mission. Kuhn, you know, was not with me when he fell, and I 
have never been able to ascertain whether he fell before or after I 
was wounded, but think it must have been very near the same time, 
and that he could not have been very far from me, though I did not 
see him. 

Headquarters Fifth Army Corps, January 4, 1863. 
I was at general headquarters yesterday, and from what I heard 
I suspect an advance is not far off. Burnside had just received the 
telegram announcing the fight at Murfreesboro', and was chafing 



346 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

under the fear that part of Lee's forces in his front had been detached 
to help Joe Johnston down there. I told him I had no idea they had 
gone that far, and thought it more likely they had gone to assist in 
an attack on Gloucester Point or Suffolk, where we yesterday heard 
there was fighting. 

Hooker has gone up to Washington, for what purpose I do not 
know, but I guess to see what chance he has for the command, in 
case Burnside is removed, although he asserts most positively that 
he will not command this army. I despair more and more of getting 
off, it is now so late and so much time has passed. Reynolds got 
back yesterday; he said he had seen you and the children in Phila- 
delphia, but did not have much to say. He is a man of very few 
words. Baldy Smith has returned, and Franklin is off for a few days. 

Headquarters Fifth Army Corps, January 7, 1863. 
Your assurances of the exalted position I occupy are very grate- 
ful. I don't think, however, you need worry yourself about my get- 
ting much higher for the present. There are too many ahead of me 
for my turn to come for some time. To-morrow General Burnside 
is to review our corps. I sent Coxe up to Washington, who has re- 
turned with the materials for a collation. I wish you could be here 
to see the review. Burnside told me to-day that he had telegraphed 
to the President for authority to advance, and that if it was refused, 
he should insist on retiring. I have reason to believe great efforts 
have been made to displace him, and perhaps this act of his may 
settle it. At any rate, so long as this question of an advance is open, 
I cannot get away. I have been very unfortunate, as almost every 
one has managed to get off for a few days. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., January 13, 1863. 
Now that I am back I can hardly realize that I spent day before 
yesterday with you and the dear children. I had a very comfortable 
journey to Washington, sleeping nearly all the way. I reached Wil- 
lards about 7 a.m., breakfasted and walked up to the Bureau to see 
Woodruff. At 11 presented myself to the court, where I was put on 
the stand and badgered till 3.30 P. M., the court trying to make me 
condemn McDowell's tactics and strategy. After court, walked 
down the street with Markoe Bache to see Margaret, 1 returned to 
the hotel and dined at 6 p. m., loafed for an hour or two around the 
1 Sister of General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 347 

hotel, and at 9 p. m., left in a special steamer for Acquia Creek, 
reaching my tent and bed at 3 A. M., this morning. I met at Wil- 
lards, Burnside's Aide, who told me he thought I might venture to 
remain another day, but as I really had finished all I had to do in 
Washington, and there was nothing to detain me, I determined to 
come back. To-day I have been employed seeing Hooker and Burn- 
side, the latter of whom insisted on my dining with him, and was 
very complimentary on my promptitude in returning, saying he be- 
lieved I was the only officer in his command that had come back 
when he was told to do so, and had not overstayed his leave. I 
could not get any definite information about our movements, though 
everything looks as if we were going some day to move. 

I was treated with great distinction in Washington, and Aleck. 
Coxe was greatly delighted with the number of inquiries as to who 
I was, and the very general knowledge of my name, but not of my 
person. He overheard two gentlemen talking, one of whom said, 
"What major general is that," to which the other replied, "Meade." 
"Who is he," said the first, "I never saw him before." "No, that 
is very likely, for he is one of our fighting generals, is always on the 
field, and does not spend his time in Washington hotels." I saw of 
course a good many people, principally army officers. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., January 15, 1863. 
To-day I have taken a long ride up the river, looking out for 
suitable crossing places. I could plainly see the enemy's pickets and 
their camps, and I think it will be very hard to find any place where 
they are not on the qui-vive and looking out for us. On my return 
I met the pontoon-train going up the river, which is significant, 
though I did not find in camp any orders, as I expected. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., January 18, 1863. 
We have been under orders to move, but for some reason or other 
the final orders have not yet been received. I believe it is Burn- 
side's intention to make another attempt to dislodge the enemy on 
the opposite side, but profitting by the experience gained in the last 
effort, he is determined this time to proceed cautiously and securely, 
to cross the whole army near one place, and not attack until after a 
close examination of their position he is satisfied he can attack with 
probability of success. However, the attack when made will be in 
heavy force, well supported. If this programme is carried out, I be- 



348 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

lieve we shall be successful, for there is no doubt we have a much 
larger force than the enemy, and with anything like equal advantages 
ought to whip them. All this is confidential, though I see the papers 
for some days past have been announcing our advance. The army 
is in good condition, though there are those who insist its morale is 
not good, but of. this I see no signs. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., January 23, 1863. 
I have not written to you for several days, for the reasons that I 
have had no opportunity, and that I was aware all letters from the 
camp were stopped in Washington, so that there was no use in writ- 
ing. On the 19th, in the night, we received orders to move the next 
day. On the 20th, the whole army moved from their camp to a posi- 
tion four miles up the river, where crossing places had previously 
been selected. Everything went off very well up to about 8 P. M. 
of the 20th. The army reached its position. The pontoons, artil- 
lery and all other accessories were up in time, and we all thought the 
next morning the bridges would be thrown over and we should be 
at it. But man proposes and God disposes. About 9 P. M. a ter- 
rific storm of wind and rain set in and continued all night. At once 
I saw the game was up. The next day the roads were almost im- 
passable; the pontoons, in attempting to get them to the water's 
edge, stuck on the bank, and a hundred men could not budge them. 
Instead of six bridges being thrown over by 8 A. M., it was found late 
in the day that the materials for one only could be got to the water's 
edge. Burnside visited us, and soon saw the state of the case. Still 
in hopes something might happen, he directed we should remain in 
position. All that night, the 21st, and the next day, the 22d, it con- 
tinued to rain, and the roads to get into such a condition, that early 
yesterday, the 22d, I had to turn out the whole of my corps, fifteen 
thousand men, and go to work and bridge with logs, or corduroy, as 
it is called, nearly the whole road from our camp to the crossing 
place, eight miles. The men worked cheerfully at this, which was 
accomplished by early this morning, and Burnside having recalled 
the army to its old camp, we have been all day getting our artillery 
back, and to-morrow the infantry will return, thus consuming two 
days to get back, when it took only a few hours to get there. I 
never felt so disappointed and sorry for any one in my life as I did 
for Burnside. He really seems to have even the elements against 
him. I told him warmly, when I saw him, how sorry I felt, and that 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 349 

I had almost rather have lost a limb than that the storm should have 
occurred. He seemed quite philosophical, said he could not resist 
the elements and perhaps it was as well, for that his movement had 
been most strongly opposed and some of his generals had told him 
he was leading the men to a slaughter pen; and I am sorry to say 
there were many men, and among them generals high in command, 
who openly rejoiced at the storm and the obstacle it presented. We 
were very much amused to see in the papers to-day, flaming accounts 
of our crossing, of the battle, and of Hooker being mortally wounded. 
I hope you did not attach any importance to these absurd reports, 
which, when I saw, I feared you might have been anxious. I pre- 
sumed the truth had been telegraphed and that you would know 
the storm had frustrated our plans. The plan was based on the pre- 
sumption that we would take the enemy unawares, at least so far as 
the place of crossing was concerned, and I believe, but for the storm, 
we should have succeeded in this. What will be done now I can- 
not imagine, the mud is at present several feet thick wherever any 
wagons pass over a road, and if the weather from this time, should 
at all resemble that of last year, it will effectually stop all operations 
for two months to come. 

I did not see George 1 during our fiasco, though I was at one time 
bivouacked near a part of his regiment, but his company was not 
with that part. 

Doubleday has been assigned to the Reserves, which is a good 
thing for me, for now they will think a great deal more of me than 
before. 

Camp near Falmouth, January 26, 1863. 

We are much excited by rumors of what is going to be done. It 
is generally believed Burnside is in Washington, though when you go 
to see him, as I did yesterday, you are informed he is out riding. 

This war will never be terminated until one side or the other has 
been well whipped, and this result cannot be brought about except 
by fighting. Hence, although I like fighting as little as any man, 
yet if it has to be done, and I don't see how it can be avoided, I am 
of Shakespeare's opinion, " if it were done, then 't were well it were 
done quickly." 

I send you three letters which I think you will be interested in 
reading, and which you may as well keep as mementoes of the war. 

1 Son of General Meade. 



350 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

The first is from Levi Richards, a private in the Pennsylvania Re- 
serves, who was detailed as a teamster and drove my wagon while 
I was connected with the Reserves. His letter is spontaneous, he 
having nothing, as he says, to gain by it, as we are now separated, 
but it is gratifying to me as an evidence of the opinion entertained 
of me by the soldiers of my command. The second is from Surgeon 
Pineo, one of the most accomplished officers of his department, who 
was under me, while I had command of the First Corps, as medical 
director. He asked me to recommend him for promotion, which I 
did, and his letter in reply shows what some officers think of me. 
The other is from Hon. William Wilkins, formerly judge in Pennsyl- 
vania, Senator and Secretary of War. He desires a favor for his 
grandson, but he is pleased to say I am powerful and in favor, hence 
his letter indicates in some measure public opinion in regard to me. 
I send them because, knowing how much you think of me, I know it 
will gratify you to know that others have a favorable opinion. This 
may be vanity, but I deem it pardonable in writing to one's wife. 

George 1 gave me my spectacles, and the glasses suit exactly, and 
are truly welcome, for a day or two before we moved, I was on horse- 
back, when a sudden puff of wind carried away the only pair of 
spectacles I had, and for a few minutes I was in despair, until fort- 
unately my orderly found them. Now I am provided against such 
accidents. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., January 26, 1863 — 9 P. M. 
I wrote you a long letter to-day, little thinking while I was quietly 
employed writing to you what momentous events were going on im- 
mediately around me. After writing to you, I went out to ride for 
exercise, and on my return at 6 P. M., found an order awaiting me, 
announcing Major General Hooker as in command of the Army of 
the Potomac and Major General Meade in command of the Centre 
Grand Division. I then learned for the first time that this news ar- 
rived this morning (Burnside having brought it down from Wash- 
ington last night), and that he, Burnside, and all his staff had gone 
off this morning, and that Generals Sumner and Franklin had both 
been relieved and ordered to Washington. You can readily imagine 
my surprise at all this, although some such step had been talked 
about for some time back. As to my commanding a grand division, 
I consider it a mere temporary arrangement, as either some one of 

1 Son of General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 351 

more rank will be sent, or, what is more likely, the grand division 
organization broken up altogether, as it was purely an invention of 
Burnside's, and has not, I think, been considered a good one. You 
will, doubtless, be anxious to know what I think of these changes. 
With all my respect, and I may almost say affection, for Burnside — 
for he has been most kind and considerate towards me — I cannot 
shut my eyes to the fact that he was not equal to the command of 
so large an army. He had some very positive qualifications, such 
as determination and nerve, but he wanted knowledge and judgment, 
and was deficient in that enlarged mental capacity which is essential 
in a commander. Another drawback was a very general opinion 
among officers and men, brought about by his own assertions, that 
the command was too much for him. This greatly weakened his 
position. As to Hooker, you know my opinion of him, frequently 
expressed. I believe my opinion is more favorable than any other 
of the old regular officers, most of whom are decided in their hostility 
to him. I believe Hooker is a good soldier; the danger he runs is 
of subjecting himself to bad influences, such as Dan Butterfield and 
Dan Sickles, who, being intellectually more clever than Hooker, and 
leading him to believe they are very influential, will obtain an inju- 
rious ascendancy over him and insensibly affect his conduct. I may, 
however, in this be wrong; time will prove. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., January 28, 1863. 
Your anxiety lest I should be placed in command of the army 
causes me to smile. Still, I must confess when such men as Gibbon 
say it is talked about, it really does look serious and alarming; yet, 
when I look back on the good fortune which has thus far attended 
my career, I cannot believe so sudden a change for the worse can 
occur as would happen if I were placed in command. I think, there- 
fore, we may for the present dismiss our fears on that score. General 
Hooker has been two days in Washington. I am looking anxiously 
for his return to hear what will be the result. Before he was placed 
in command he was open-mouthed and constant in his assertions that 
he did not want to command, and that he would not command unless 
he was perfectly untrammeled and allowed in every respect to do 
exactly as he pleased. Now, I am quite confident no such conditions 
will be acceded to in Washington. Hence, either "Fighting Joe" 
will have to back down or some one else will be sent to take the 
command. From my knowledge of friend Hooker, I am inclined to 



352 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

surmise the former will be the case. But even supposing they give 
him carte-blanche, his position is anything but enviable. This army 
is in a false position, both as regards the enemy and the public. With 
respect to the enemy, we can literally do nothing, and our numbers 
are inadequate to the accomplishment of any result even if we go to 
the James River. On the other hand, the wise public are under the 
delusion that we are omnipotent, and that it is only necessary to go 
ahead to achieve unheard-of success. Of course, under such circum- 
stances, neither Caesar, Napoleon nor any other mighty genius could 
fail to meet with condemnation, never mind what he did, and Hooker, 
I fancy, will find in time his fate in the fate of his predecessors, namely, 
undue and exaggerated praise before he does anything, and a total 
absence of reason and intelligence in the discussion of his acts when 
he does attempt anything, and a denial of even ordinary military 
qualifications unless he achieves impossibilities. Such being the case, 
he certainly is not to be envied. I think when his head is cut off, 
the Administration will try a general of their own kidney, either Fre- 
mont, Hunter or some other. Of course, so long as Hooker is absent, 
I continue in command of the Centre Grand Division, but I am more 
and more inclined to believe that his visit to Washington will result 
in the abolition of the grand-division system altogether, and the 
return to corps alone. I hope I shall retain the Fifth Corps, as it is 
one of the best, including as it does the regulars. 

Humphreys has gone to Washington. I believe I wrote you he 
behaved with distinguished gallantry at Fredericksburg. It appears 
that soon after the battle, Burnside told him both the President and 
Secretary assured him solemnly that Humphreys should be immedi- 
ately promoted. He now finds a long list sent to the Senate, in- 
cluding such names as Butterfield, Sickles, Berry and others, who 
have really done nothing, while his name is omitted, and he cannot 
hear that there is any record in the Department going to show he has 
ever even been thought of. Under these circumstances he is natu- 
rally very indignant. This is all entre nous. Just as I had gotten 
thus far, I heard Hooker had returned, and notwithstanding it is 
storming and snowing violently, I rode three miles to his headquarters 
to see him, and have just returned. He seemed in excellent spirits, 
said they had treated him "en prince" in Washington, and told him 
he had only to ask and he should have what he wanted. He did not 
tell me his plans, but intimated that as soon as the weather and the 
roads permitted he was prepared to try something. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 353 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., January 30, 1863. 
A good deal of excitement exists in the army from a report pre- 
vailing that the provost marshal of Washington, or rather the head 
of the detective police in his department, is in the habit of system- 
atically opening the letters received and written by officers. For my 
part I can hardly credit the statement, and so far as I am concerned 
am willing it should prove true, for I cannot see how information ob- 
tained in this manner can be used against one. I have endeavored 
to the best of my ability to do my duty, and I have never said a word 
to any one around me that the most hypercritical could find fault 
with. In writing to you, however, the wife of my bosom and the 
only confidential friend I have in the world, I have without doubt 
at times expressed opinions about men and things, that would not 
be considered orthodox, but I maintain no government in the world 
would take advantage of such confidential intercourse to find a man 
guilty, and I don't believe that any of my letters have ever been 
opened. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., February 1, 1863. 

Yesterday I received by the flag of truce, a note from Frank 
Ingraham, 1 who says he is a private in the Twenty-first Mississippi 
Regiment, now at Fredericksburg. He says Ned 2 was killed last 
spring, and that Apolline 3 has lost her husband, who died from ex- 
posure in service; that his mother and the rest are all well, and wish 
to be remembered to his yankee relatives. 

The weather continues most unfavorable, rain and mud are the 
order of the day, and in my judgment it will be some months before 
we can undertake operations of any magnitude. I am afraid, from 
what I see in the papers, that General Franklin is going to have 
trouble, for which I shall be truly sorry, for I really like Franklin. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., February 6, 1863. 
To-day an order is issued abolishing grand divisions and return- 
ing to the system of corps. I am announced as in command of the 
Fifth Corps. This is what I expected and accords with my ideas 
of what is best for the efficiency of the army. Baldy Smith has 
been relieved of his command and Sedgwick takes his corps — cause 
unknown, but supposed to be his affiliation with Franklin, and the 
fear that he would not co-operate with Hooker. This, however, is 

1 Nephew of General Meade. 2 Brother of Frank Ingraham. 

3 Sister of Frank Ingraham. 



354 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

mere surmise, I have not seen any one to know or hear what is 
going on. 

Last evening I received orders to send out an expedition this 
morning, which I did; but it has been storming violently all day, 
and this afternoon I sent to recall it. The Ninth Corps, which came 
with Burnside from North Carolina, is not announced in the order 
published to-day, and I hear it is under orders to move — where it is 
going, not known, but the probability is that Burnside has asked to 
have it with him, in case he returns to North Carolina. 

The news from Charleston 1 looks very badly, I hope our friend 
Frailey will come out all right. Stellwagon of the Mercedita, if you 
remember we met at Mrs. Frailey's last summer, the evening I went 
in there. Our navy has hitherto been so successful, that it seems 
hard to realize a reverse. 

I do not know what to make of the political condition of the 
country. One thing I do know, I have been long enough in the war 
to want to give them one thorough good licking before any peace is 
made, and to accomplish this I will go through a good deal. 

Headquarters Fifth Army Corps, February 13, 1863. 
I have not seen General Hooker for several days, indeed his course 
towards me is so inexplicable in refusing me leave of absence, and not 
vouchsafing any reason for it, that I feel indisposed to see him. Be- 
sides, I do not like his entourage. Such gentlemen as Dan Sickles 
and Dan Butterfield are not the persons I should select as my inti- 
mates, however worthy and superior they may be. I rode over to 
George's 2 camp to-day and paid him a short visit. The regiment, 
since the breaking up of the grand divisions, has been placed under 
Stoneman, who has command of all the cavalry. This will give them 
a much better chance of seeing service than when attached to Head- 
quarters, which is a lazy, loafing sort of duty. Have you read 
General Pope's famous report? I see he says I did my duty in all 
fidelity to the Government, for which, of course, I am truly grateful. 

Headquarters Fifth Army Corps, February 15, 1863. 
I thought this afternoon I would not have to write to you, for I 
got a note from Hooker, saying he could spare me for seven days and 
telling me to apply. I immediately did so, sending in the same appli- 
cation which he had twice refused. At the same time I wrote to 

1 Confederate gun-boats under Com. Ingraham broke the Federal blockade at 
Charleston, S. C. 

2 Son of General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 355 

him, that I did not desire to go, if there was the slightest reason to 
believe I should be wanted. It will be too much happiness to get 
home for a few days and be with you and the dear children. 

I have had an application from young Jay, 1 of New York, to 
come upon my staff, as an extra aide. He was appointed an addi- 
tional aide-de-camp at the time the law authorized such appoint- 
ments, and has been serving with General Morrell. That officer hav- 
ing been deprived of his command, Captain Jay has applied to me. 
I told him, if the War Department would assign him, I should be 
glad to have him. 

Bureau Top. Eng. (Washington, D. C), February 26, 1863. 
The train never reached this place until ten o'clock, instead of 
six-thirty as due. In consequence I missed the boat. As there is 
none till to-morrow morning at 8 A. M., thus detaining me here all 
day. This is annoying, because I wished to set the example of a 
prompt and punctual return within the time allowed me, whereas now 
I shall be one day behind time, and this is the more disagreeable 
because there is a report in town that the enemy's cavalry have ap- 
peared in force this side of the Rappahannock. This is only a raid, 
as they cannot possibly be so foolish as to attempt any advance this 
side of the river, at this season of the year. The first person I met 
at the hotel was Cram, and I am going to dine with him to-day. I 
next met Sykes, who is up here on a court-martial. I am now writ- 
ing a few lines to give you the news, am going to see Mrs. Turnbull 
and then shall dine with Cram. 

Headquarters Fifth Army Corps, February 27, 1863. 

I wrote you a few lines yesterday from Major Woodruff's office, 
advising you of my detention in Washington. 

I met hundreds of people whom I knew, such as Generals Cad- 
walader, McCall, Hartsuff and others. I had seen Hudson (McClel- 
lan's aide) in the morning, and he asked me to come at six and dine 
with the general. I declined the invitation on the ground of pre- 
vious engagements, but said I would drop in after dinner. As it was 
past eight o'clock when I got back, I went in to the private parlor 
where McClellan was dining, and found a party of some dozen or 
more, all officers but one, a Mr. Cox, Democratic member of Con- 
gress from Ohio. Among the party were Andrew Porter, Sykes, 

1 William Jay. 



356 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Buchanan, General Van Allen and others. McClellan received me 
with much distinction and seated me alongside of himself, and asked 
very kindly after you and the children, etc. The subject of conver- 
sation at the table was general, and referred principally to military 

matters and pending acts of legislation. My friend , who 

doubtless had heard of my confirmation and was in consequence dis- 
gusted, said he heard I was to be given an Army Corps of Niggers. 
I laughingly replied I had not been informed of the honor awaiting 

me, but one thing I begged to assure , that if the niggers were 

going into the field and really could be brought heartily to fight, I was 
ready to command them, and should prefer such duty to others that 

might be assigned me. As this was a fair hit at 's position, it 

silenced him, and I heard nothing further about commanding niggers. 
After spending an hour in pleasant chat, I withdrew, and meeting 
Cram, we spent the night till near twelve o'clock, talking and walking 
about among the crowd in the hotel. This morning I left at eight 
o'clock and reached here about one P. M., being half a day behind 
my time. On the wharf at Acquia Creek I met Reynolds, on his way 
out, having just received his leave, and having been, as I expected, 
awaiting my return to have his granted. 

Headquarters Fifth Army Corps, March 7, 1863. 

Before this reaches you, you will have seen Alexander Coxe, who 
left this morning for home. I am most truly sorry to lose him, for 
he has not only rendered himself most useful to me, but has attached 
himself to me as a friend, from his manly character and social quali- 
ties. I sincerely hope he will be benefited by rest and medical 
treatment at home, and will be able to return. 

Captain Jay has joined me, and seems quite a clever gentleman. 
We have also had at our mess John Williams, who has been taken 
away from Ricketts and ordered to report to this army for duty, 
but who has not yet been assigned to any general. 

The bill amalgamating the two corps of Engineers has passed, so 
the old Topographical Corps is defunct, and I shall have the honor 
of being borne on the register as a Major of Engineers. The bill 
makes one brigadier general (Totten), four colonels (of which Bache 
will be one), ten lieutenant colonels, twenty majors (of whom I shall 
be the tenth), thirty captains, thirty first lieutenants and ten second 
lieutenants. It don't make much difference to me, if the war lasts 
as long as I expect it to and I survive it. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 357 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., March 12, 1863. 

You will see by the papers that we have all been confirmed, with 
the dates of our appointment. 

You have never mentioned Reynolds in your letters. He has 
been off on ten-days' leave, and I presumed he would be in Phila- 
delphia. Did you hear of his being there? I have not seen him since 
his return to ask. I was invited to his headquarters yesterday to dine, 
it being the anniversary of the organization of the First Corps; and 
as I had for a time commanded the corps, and also a division in it, 
I was honored with an invitation. The dinner was given by the staff. 

This evening Captain Magaw, of the navy, with his mother, wife 
and a young lady friend, made their appearance at headquarters, and 
asked hospitality. He commands the gun-boat flotilla in the Poto- 
mac. His wife is quite a sweet, pretty woman, is the daughter of a 
navy officer, and was born at Pensacola when my sister, Mrs. Dallas, 
was there, and is named after her and Margaret. The young men on 
the staff turned out with alacrity and fitted up a tent in which they 
are quite comfortable. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., March 13, 1863. 

I am glad you went to Professor Cresson's experiments on the 
polarization of light, which must have been very interesting, even 
though unintelligible! 

Captain Magaw and ladies left us to-day. Though we were ut- 
terly unprepared for such visitors, we managed to make them quite 
comfortable, and they left delighted. Yesterday I put the ladies in 
an ambulance and mounted Magaw on Baldy, and we went over and 
took a look at Fredericksburg, and afterwards called on Hooker. 
The General was, however, absent at a grand wedding which took 
place yesterday in camp, followed last night by a ball, and I under- 
stand another ball is given to-night by General Sickles. Not being 
honored with an invitation to these festivities, I did not go. 



To Mr. John Sergeant Meade: * 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., March 15, 1863. 
I am obliged to go up to Washington to-day, to appear before the 
" Committee on the Conduct of the War." I have no idea what they 

1 Son of General Meade. 



358 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

want me for, but presume it is in relation to the Fredericksburg bat- 
tle, and that my being called is due to the testimony of General Burn- 
side, who has perhaps referred to me in his statement. I am very 
sorry I have been called, because my relations and feelings towards 
all parties are and have been of the most friendly character, and I shall 
be sorry to become involved in any way in the controversies growing 
out of this affair. 

I have only seen George 1 once since my return; the weather and 
roads have been so bad that neither of us could get to the camp of the 
other. The regiment has been very highly complimented by General 
Stoneman. One squadron has been armed with carbines, and it is 
expected that in a short time the whole regiment will be thus equipped 
and the turkey-driving implement 2 abandoned. 

I am completely fuddled about politics, and am afraid the people 
are very much demoralized. I trust one thing or another will be done. 
Either carry on the war as it ought to be, with overwhelming means, 
both material and personal, or else give it up altogether. I am tired 
of half-way measures and efforts, and of the indecisive character of 
operations up to this time. I don't know whether these sentiments 
will be considered disloyal, but they are certainly mine; with the 
understanding, however, that I am in favor of the first, namely, a 
vigorous prosecution of the war with all the means in our power. 



To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., March 17, 1863. 
I returned to-day from Washington. I went up day before yester- 
day, the 15th, arriving in Washington about 7 p.m. I went to Wil- 
lard's, where, as usual, I saw a great many people. Finding Burnside 
was in the house, I sent up my name and was ushered into his room, 
where I found himself and Mrs. Burnside, the latter a very quiet, 
lady-like and exceedingly nice personage, quite pretty and rather 
younger than I expected to see. Burnside was very glad to see me, 
and we had a long talk. Among other things he read me a corre- 
spondence he had had with Franklin. Franklin had called his at- 
tention to the letter which appeared in the Times, said this was 
known to be written by Raymond, the editor, and it was generally 
believed his information was derived either from Burnside himself or 

1 Son of General Meade. 2 Lance carried by some cavalry regiments. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 359 

some of his staff. Hence this letter was considered authority, and 
as it did him, Franklin, great injustice, he appealed to his, Burnside's, 
magnanimity to correct the errors and give publicity to his correction. 
Burnside replied that he had not read the article till Franklin called 
his attention to it; that he was not responsible for it, nor was he aware 
that any of his staff had had any part in its production. Still, he was 
bound to say that in its facts it was true; that as to the inferences 
drawn from these facts, he had nothing to say about them and must 
refer him to Raymond, the reputed author. Several letters had 
passed, Franklin trying to get Burnside to (as he, Burnside, expressed 
it) whitewash him. This Burnside said he was not going to do; that 
Franklin must stand on his own merits and the facts of the case; that 
he had never made any accusation against him, except to say that the 
crossing of the river, being against his, Franklin's, judgment, he 
thought Franklin had been wanting in a zealous and hearty co-opera- 
tion with his plans. That about the time my attack failed, hearing 
from one of his, Burnside's, staff officers, just from the field, that 
Franklin was not attacking with the force and vigor he ought to, he 
immediately despatched him an order "directing him to attack with 
his whole force if necessary" which order he assumed the responsibil- 
ity of not executing, and he must now take the consequences, if blame 
was attached to him for it. 

The next morning I went up to the Capitol, to the committee 
room, and found only the clerk present. He said the committee had 
been awaiting me some days; that Senators Chandler and Wade were 
the only two members present, and now down town; that he would 
hunt them up, and have them at the room by three o'clock, if I would 
return at that hour. At three I again presented myself to the com- 
mittee, and found old Ben Wade, Senator from Ohio, awaiting me. 
He said the committee wished to examine me in regard to my attack 
at Fredericksburg. I told him I presumed such was the object in 
summoning me, and with this in view I had brought my official report, 
which I would read to him, and if he wanted any more information, 
I was prepared to give it. After hearing my report, he said it covered 
the whole ground, and he would only ask me one or two questions. 
First, was I aware that General Burnside, about the time of my at- 
tack, had ordered General Franklin to attack with his whole force? 
I answered, "At the time of the battle, No; indeed, I only learned 
this fact yesterday evening, from General Burnside himself." Sec- 
ondly, what, in my judgment, as a military man, would have been the 



360 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

effect if General Franklin had, when my attack was successful, ad- 
vanced his whole line? I said I believed such a movement would have 
resulted in the driving back of the enemy's right wing; though it 
would, without doubt, have produced a desperate and hard-contested 
fight; but when I reflected on the success that attended my attack, 
which was made with less than ten thousand men (supports and all), 
I could not resist the belief that the attack of fifty thousand men 
would have been followed by success. This was all he asked, and 
except the last question, the answer to which was a mere matter of 
opinion, I don't think any one can take exception to my testimony. 
My conversations with Burnside and Wade satisfied me that Franklin 
was to be made responsible for the failure at Fredericksburg, and the 
committee is seeking all the testimony they can procure to substan- 
tiate this theory of theirs. Now, Franklin has, first, his orders, as 
received from Burnside, and then the fact that the execution of these 
orders was entrusted to Reynolds, for his defense. Before the com- 
mittee, of course, he will not be heard, but after their report comes 
out, it will be incumbent on him to notice their statements and de- 
mand an investigation. I feel very sorry for Franklin, because I like 
him, and because he has always been consistently friendly to me. 

After returning from the Capitol, I dined with General and Mrs. 
Burnside and Parke. Parke said he was about being left off the list 
of major generals, when Burnside's opportune arrival saved him, 
Halleck giving as a reason that he had exercised no command since 
his appointment. Burnside, however, had his name sent in, and 
now he is going to supersede Baldy Smith and take command of the 
Ninth Corps, which is to accompany Burnside in his new command, 
to which he, Burnside, expects to be ordered in a few days. 

The best piece of news I learned when in Washington was that the 
President was about issuing his proclamation putting in force the 
conscription law, and ordering immediately a draft of five hundred 
thousand men. Only let him do this, and enforce it and get the 
men, and the North is bound to carry the day. 

I sometimes feel very nervous about my position, they are knock- 
ing over generals at such a rate. Among others, Wright, who was 
my beau ideal of a soldier, and whom I had picked out as the most 
rising man, has had his major-generalcy and his command both taken 
away from him, because he could not satisfy the extremists of Ohio 
(anti-slavery) and those of Kentucky (pro-slavery), but tried by a 
moderate course to steer between them. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 361 

Did I tell you the old Reserves had subscribed fifteen hundred 
dollars to present me with a sword, sash, belt, etc.? It is expected 
they will be ready about the close of the month, when I am to go, 
if possible, to their camp near Washington to receive them. 

Falmouth, Va., March 21, 1863. 

I had seen in the papers a glowing account of the "Merry Wives 
of Windsor/' which must have been a great treat. There is nothing 
I feel so much the deprivation of as hearing good music, and I was 
very sorry that there was no opportunity to indulge myself while in 
Philadelphia. 

We have literally nothing new or exciting in camp. Averill's 
brilliant cavalry foray has been the camp talk. The enemy, through 
Richmond papers, admit they were whipped and believe it to be the 
commencement of Hooker's campaign, and already talk of the prob- 
able necessity of Lee's having to fall back nearer Richmond. This 
confirms what we have suspected, that their force opposite to us had 
been much reduced, and that when we pressed them they would 
retire. There is not much chance of doing this at present, however. 
Yesterday it snowed all day, and to-day it is raining, so that our 
roads are again, or will be, in a dreadful condition. 

Falmouth, Va., March 29, 1863. 
I received yesterday your letter of the 26th. The same mail 
brought me a letter from Franklin. It is evident from Franklin's 
letter that my surmise was correct, that he had taken it into his 
head that I had been talking to Burnside and furnishing him with 
data for the controversy. I don't intend to quarrel with Franklin 
if I can help it, because I feel that in all this war he has shown more 
real regard for me and appreciation for me than any other man. I 
have never had any official relations with Franklin, till Fredericks- 
burg, and I know that he has on numerous occasions referred to me 
as one who has not been advanced in proportion to his merits. Be- 
sides this feeling, selfish to be sure, my judgment is that Burnside 
is making a mistake in holding Franklin responsible for the disaster 
at Fredericksburg. Franklin may be chargeable with a want of en- 
ergy, with failing, without reference to orders, to take advantage of 
a grand opportunity for distinction, with, in fact, not doing more 
than he was strictly required to do; but it is absurd to say he failed 



362 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

to obey, or in any way obstructed the prompt execution of his orders; 
that is, so far as I know them. 

Burnside says he sent him orders about the middle of the day to 
attack with his whole force. Franklin, I understand, denies having 
received any such orders. Moreover, Baldy Smith, I hear, has 
sworn that a day or two before Franklin was relieved, Burnside told 
him (Baldy Smith) that he was going to give up the command of the 
army and urge the President to put Franklin in his place. This 
seems very inconsistent with his subsequent course, as there is no 
doubt Franklin's command was taken away from him on the repre- 
sentations of Burnside. My position, with my friendly feelings for 
both, is not only peculiar but embarrassing. 

We had some grand races day before yesterday, gotten up by 
Birney. I went over there and met Governor Curtin. He returned 
with me and inspected several of the Pennsylvania regiments in my 
command, making little speeches to each. 

Falmouth, Va., March 30, 1863. 

I am truly glad to hear Franklin called to see you. I am sure 
you will bear testimony to the respect and good feeling I have al- 
ways expressed towards Franklin, and my earnest desire to avoid 
being drawn into the controversy between himself and Burnside. I 
think Franklin missed a great chance at Fredericksburg, and I rather 
infer from his letter that he thinks so now; but I have always said 
he was hampered by his orders and a want of information as to 
Burnside's real views and plans. A great captain would have cast 
them aside and assumed responsibility. At the same time I must 
say that he knew and I know that if he had failed, then his going 
beyond his orders would prove utter ruin. 

Deserters from the other side say the men are really suffering 
from the want of sufficient food, but that their spirit is undaunted, 
and that they are ready to fight. The morale of our army is better 
than it ever was, so you may look out for tough fighting next time. 

Falmouth, Va., April 5, 1863. 
Yesterday I received yours of the 2d instant, announcing you had 
been to Bailey's to see my sword. I saw the item in the Inquirer 
you allude to, and was not a little taken down by another in the 
next column, in which the presentation fever was most justly in- 
veighed against. I did all I could to prevent anything being given 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 363 

to me, and on several occasions when I was approached to know 
what I would like to have, I always refused to take anything, and 
earnestly requested as a personal favor to have the thing stopped. 
This last affair was gotten up after I had left the division, and the 
first I knew of it was that the sword had been ordered and would 
soon be ready for presentation. There is to be a grand jollification 
at Willard's, I hear, on the occasion, when the Governor and divers 
other big-bugs will be present to gas and make me feel uncomfort- 
able. I would give a good deal to escape this ordeal, and am in 
hopes we shall be on the move before they get ready. I would much 
prefer the men giving their money to their wives, or, if they are not 
so blessed, to the widows and orphans that the war has made. I 
see by the Inquirer of yesterday that the 18th instant is the day 
appointed for the presentation, but I rather think that by that date 
I shall have other work on hand. 

Some one has sent me a copy of the Evening Journal with 
Wilkeson's letter about Birney in it. 

Falmouth, Va., April 9, 1863. 
I have omitted writing for a day or two, as I have been very 
much occupied in the ceremonies incidental to the President's visit. 
I think my last letter told you he arrived here on Sunday, in the 
midst of a violent snow storm. He was to have had a cavalry re- 
view on that day, but the weather prevented it. The next day, 
Monday, the cavalry review came off; but notwithstanding the large 
number of men on parade, the weather, which was cloudy and raw, 
and the ground, which was very muddy, detracted from the effect 
greatly. Orders were given for an infantry review the next day 
(Tuesday). I was invited on this day (Monday) to dine with Gen- 
eral Hooker, to meet the President and Mrs. Lincoln. We had a 
very handsome and pleasant dinner. The President and Mrs. Lin- 
coln, Mr. Bates, Secretary of the Interior, a Dr. Henry, of Colorado, 
who accompanied the President, Mrs. Stoneman, wife of Major Gen- 
eral Stoneman, besides the corps commanders, constituted the party. 
The next day, owing to the ground not being in condition, the in- 
fantry review was postponed; but the President did me the honor 
to visit my camps and inspect them, and I believe (leaving out the 
fatigue) passed a very pleasant day. Yesterday (Wednesday) we 
had the grand infantry review, there being out four corps, or over 
sixty thousand men. The review passed off very well indeed. The 



364 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

day, during the early part of it, was not favorable, being cloudy and 
raw, but after noon the sun came out and rendered everything more 
cheerful. Mrs. Carroll and Mrs. Griffin and the two Misses Carroll, 
together with two other young ladies, having come down to General 
Griffin's, I was invited to meet them at dinner, which I did yester- 
day evening, and had a very pleasant time. So you see we are try- 
ing to smooth a little the horrors of war. I saw George 1 the day of 
the cavalry review. He told me he was to have a leave that day, 
so that he will undoubtedly be there when this reaches you. 

The day I dined with Hooker, he told me, in the presence of Mr. 
Bates, Secretary of the Interior, that he (Hooker) had told the Presi- 
dent that the vacant brigadiership in the regular army lay between 
Sedgwick and myself. I replied that I had no pretensions to it, and 
that if I were the President I would leave it open till after the next 
battle. The next day, when riding through the camp, Hooker said 
the President had told him he intended to leave this position open 
till after the next fight. 

You have seen the report of the Committee on the Conduct of 
the War. It is terribly severe upon Franklin. Still, I took occa- 
sion when I had a chance to say a good word for Franklin to the 
President, who seemed very ready to hear anything in his behalf, 
and said promptly that he always liked Franklin and believed him 
to be a true man. The President looks careworn and exhausted. 
It is said he has been brought here for relaxation and amusement, 
and that his health is seriously threatened. He expresses himself 
greatly pleased with all he has seen, and his friends say he has im- 
proved already. 

Camp near Falmouth, April 11, 1863. 
The President has now reviewed the whole army, and expresses 
himself highly delighted with all he has seen. Since our review, I 
have attended the other reviews and have been making myself (or 
at least trying so to do) very agreeable to Mrs. Lincoln, who seems 
an amiable sort of personage. In view also of the vacant brigadier- 
ship in the regular army, I have ventured to tell the President one 
or two stories, and I think I have made decided progress in his affec- 
tions. By-the-by, talking of this vacancy, I have been very much 
gratified at the congratulations I have received from several distin- 
guished general officers on the prominence that has been given my 
1 Son of General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 365 

name in connection with this appointment. The other day, Major 
General Stoneman came up to me and said he was very glad to hear 
I was so much talked of in connection with this vacancy; that he 
hoped I would get it, and that he believed the voice of the army 
would be in my favor. Coming as this does from those who are 
cognizant of my services, some of whom are themselves candidates, 
I cannot but regard it as most complimentary and gratifying, and I 
am sure it will please you. Stoneman also told me that, hearing I 
had a boy in the Lancers, he had sent for him and introduced him to 
Mrs. Stoneman. Stoneman also spoke very handsomely of the Lan- 
cers, and said he intended they should have full chance to show what 
they were made of. 

Falmouth, Va., April 12, 1863. 

I feel very sad when I think of young Dehon and Hamilton Kuhn, 
both so full of life and promising so much; to be cut off in the way 
they were, is truly mournful, and I feel sometimes as if I was indi- 
vidually responsible, and in some measure the cause of the misfort- 
une of their friends. 

I have had another hard day's work. No sooner had the Presi- 
dent left, than a Major General Follarde, of the Swiss army, comes 
down here, with orders to Hooker to show him every attention, and 
as he does not speak English, and I have some pretensions to speak- 
ing French, Hooker turned him over to me, and I have, to-day, been 
taking him all through my camps and showing him my command. 
He seems like all foreign officers of rank, intelligent and educated. 
He expressed himself delighted and wonder-struck with all he saw, 
and says our troops will compare favorably with the best troops in 
Europe, and he has seen them all. If he goes back to Philadelphia, 
I will give him a letter to you, for I think he will interest you. 

I note what you say of General Hooker. I think he will outlive 
that scandal, for it most certainly is a scandal. Whatever may have 
been his habits in former times, since I have been associated with 
him in the army I can bear testimony of the utter falsehood of the 
charge of drunkenness. 

I spoke to the President when here about Franklin, and endeav- 
ored to convince him that the whole affair turned on a misappre- 
hension, Burnside thinking he was saying and ordering one thing 
and Franklin understanding another. I know that Franklin did not, 
nor did any of those around him., believe or understand that Burn- 



366 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

side intended our attack for the main attack, which Burnside now 
avers was always his intention. 

Camp near Falmouth, April 14, 1863. 

Yesterday I received a letter asking me to appoint a day to re- 
ceive the sword, etc. I referred it to General Hooker, who replied 
that it was entirely out of the question, my being absent at this 
time, and recommending the postponement of the presentation, which 
I accordingly wrote to the committee. I am just as well satisfied, 
for I looked with great horror at the prospect of being made a lion, 
and having to roar for the benefit of outsiders. I trust now they 
will come quietly down here, make the presentation, and let me send 
the sword back to you, for it is too precious to carry in the field. 

I have been busy all day making preparations for the march. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 17, 1863. 

I regret to see you are in bad spirits and take so much to heart 
our apparent reverses. The affair at Charleston was pretty much 
as I expected, except I did think the ironclads would be able to 
pass Sumter and get at the town. I did not expect this would give 
us the place, or that they could reduce the batteries. They never 
have yet reduced any batteries of consequence, except those at Port 
Royal and Fort Donelson, but they have proved their capacity to 
run by them and stand being shot at, which I think they did in an 
eminent degree at Charleston. I see some of the papers are disposed 
to criticise and find fault with duPont, but I have just read a vigor- 
ous defense of him in the New York Tribune, so he is all right. 
You must not be so low-spirited. War is a game of ups and downs, 
and we must have our reverses mixed up with our successes. Look 
out for "Fighting Joe's" army, for the grand reaction in our favor. 
A big rain storm we had on the 14th has kept us quiet for awhile, 
but Joe says we are to do great things when we start. 

The great lady in the camp is the Princess Slam Slam, who is 
quite a pretty young woman. The Prince Slam Slam has a regi- 
ment in Sigel's corps. 

April 18, 1863. 
To-day is fine and beautiful, and if we only have a continuance 
of such weather, we shall soon be on the move. I suppose the sooner 
we get off the better. General Hooker seems to be very sanguine of 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 367 

success, but is remarkably reticent of his information and plans; I 
really know nothing of what he intends to do, or when or where he 
proposes doing anything. This secrecy I presume is advantageous, 
so far as it prevents the enemy's becoming aware of our plans. At 
the same time it may be carried too far, and important plans may 
be frustrated by subordinates, from their ignorance of how much 
depended on their share of the work. This was the case at Fredericks- 
burg. Franklin was not properly advised, that is to say, not fully 
advised, as to Burnside's plan. I am sure if he had been so advised, 
his movements would have been different. 

I suppose you have seen Jeff Davis's proclamation on the subject 
of food. It undoubtedly is a confession of weakness, but we should 
be very careful how we allow ourselves to be led astray by it. Not 
a single exertion on our part should be relaxed, not a man less called 
out than before. We might as well make up our minds to the fact 
that our only hope of peace is in the complete overpowering of the 
military force of the South, and to do this we must have immense 
armies to outnumber them everywhere. I fear, however, that this 
plain dictate of common sense will never have its proper influence. 
Already I hear a talk of not enforcing the conscription law. Cer- 
tainly no such efforts are being made to put the machinery of the 
law into motion as would indicate an early calling out of the drafted 
men. In the course of the next month and the one ensuing, all the 
two-year and nine-month men go out of service. Of the latter class 
there were called out three hundred thousand. How many are in 
service I don't know. I do know, however, that this army loses in 
the next twenty days nearly twenty-five thousand men, and that I 
see no indication of their being replaced. Over eight thousand go 
out of my corps alone. These facts have been well-known at Wash- 
ington for some time past, and pressed upon the attention of the 
authorities, and perhaps arrangements unknown to me have been 
made to meet the difficulty. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 20, 1863. 
I can see by the public journals that the navy are in the affair 
at Charleston about to imitate the bad example of the army by 
squabbling among themselves after a battle with greater energy than 
they display fighting the enemy. DuPont will undoubtedly have to 
bear the brunt of the failure at Charleston, but as I see the Tribune 
most warmly and energetically espouses his cause, I presume he is all 



368 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

safe. I never had any idea the ironclads would be able to do much 
more than they did. They are simply able to stand fire, but have 
no more offensive power, indeed not as much as ordinary vessels of 
war. 

I see Seymour has been sent by Hunter to endeavor to have 
countermanded the order sending the ironclads to the Mississippi. 
This order, if ever given, was in my judgment very injudicious, for 
these vessels will be of no use on that river in reducing the works 
of Vicksburg and Port Hudson. The only service they can be put 
to there would be to patrol the river between the two places, and 
prevent supplies to the rebels from the Red River Country. 

Yesterday the Richmond papers announced the fall of Suffolk, 
and we were all pretty blue; but this morning we have a telegram 
from General Peck reporting that he has stormed and carried a bat- 
tery of six guns that the enemy had built, and had captured a por- 
tion of an Alabama regiment that was defending it. This is great 
news, not so much for the actual amount of the success, as for the 
facts — first, that it is the reverse of what the rebels had reported, 
and, second, because it is the first time in this war that our troops 
have carried a battery in position at the point of the bayonet, an 
example, I trust, will be speedily and often imitated by us. 

Day before yesterday, I was astonished at receiving a very beau- 
tiful bouquet of flowers, which had attached to it a card on which 
was written, "With the compliments of Mrs. A. Lincoln." At first 
I was very much tickled, and my vanity insinuated that my fine 
appearance had taken Mrs. L's eye and that my fortune was made. 
This delusion, however, was speedily dissolved by the orderly who 
brought the bouquet inquiring the road to General Griffin's and 
Sykes's quarters, when I ascertained that all the principal generals 
had been similarly honored. 

I understand George 1 joined his regiment up the river, the day 
after he arrived. He went up in a violent storm. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 22, 1863. 
You don't seem to like my Loyal League letter, or rather you seem 
to depreciate my writing at all. I could not decline to answer the 
invitation extended to me, and to decline simply on the ground of 
public duties would have been refusing to give my views, which un- 
doubtedly was the object of the invitation, as no one could have sup- 
1 Son of General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 

posed I could attend. The letter I wrote was carefully worded, to 
avoid anything like a partisan complexion. I said nothing but what 
I am willing to stand up to. I am in favor of a vigorous prosecution 
of the war, and am opposed to any separation of government in what 
was, is, and should be the United States. I stated distinctly that I 
subscribed to the platform because it was national and not partisan. 
It is impossible to satisfy all parties; the only thing you can do is 
to give none a reason for claiming you as their own. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 25, 1863. 

George's 1 panniers arrived yesterday. They are certainly very 
elegant affairs and I presume Master George got his pay in Wash- 
ington to enable him to indulge in such luxuries. I have for my use 
two champagne baskets covered with canvas, but young lieutenants 
are far ahead of generals now-a-days. 

The extraordinarily bad weather continues. It seems as if it 
would never stop raining, and until it does, we must remain quiet. 
I cannot hear anything of the movements of the cavalry. The last 
I heard they were up the Rappahannock, detained by the rains, and 
I take it for granted they are there still. 

I join most heartily with you in prayers and wishes for this ter- 
rible war to be brought to a close; but I fear our prayers and wishes 
will avail but little. If I could only see the country alive to the 
magnitude of the war, and efforts being made to exert and use the 
superior resources in the way they should be employed, I might have 
some hopes that the war might be terminated by our success. Let 
us hope matters will turn out better than we have a right to expect. 
War is a game of chances and accidents. A little success on our 
part will have a great influence to bring things to a right condition, 
and I think the spirit of this army is to try hard to be successful. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 26, 1863. 
Hooker seems very confident of success, but lets no one into his 
secrets. I heard him say that not a human being knew his plans 
either in the army or at Washington. For my part I am willing to 
be in ignorance, for it prevents all criticism and faultfinding in ad- 
vance. All I ask and pray for is to be told explicitly and clearly 
what I am expected to do, and then I shall try, to the best of my 
ability, to accomplish the task set before me. This afternoon, while 

1 Son of General Meade. 



370 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

at headquarters, I saw the arrival of Mr. Seward with several ladies, 
and three or four of the foreign Ministers, from Washington. I was 
not introduced to them, as I was on business and in a hurry to get 
home. 

I have been riding all day and am a little fatigued. 

April 30, 1863. 
The papers will of course tell you the army has moved. I write 
to tell you that there is as yet but a little skirmishing; we are across 
the river and have out-manceuvered the enemy, but are not yet out 
of the woods. 

May 2, p. m. 
We have had no great fighting as yet, though Sykes's division, of 
my corps, had quite a skirmish yesterday. It is doubtful what the 
enemy are going to do, but many believe they are evacuating. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 7, 1863. 

I reached here last evening, fatigued and exhausted with a ten 
days' campaign, pained and humiliated at its unsatisfactory result, 
but grateful to our heavenly Father that, in His infinite goodness, 
He permitted me to escape all the dangers I had to pass through. 1 
The papers will give you all the details of the movement, so that I 
shall confine myself to a general account of my own doings. General 
Hooker's plan was well conceived and its early part well executed. It 
was briefly thus : A portion of the army were to make a forced march, 
cross the Rappahannock so high up as to preclude opposition, cross 
the Rapidan at the lower fords, drive away the defenders of the 
works placed at the crossings of the Rappahannock nearest to Fred- 
ericksburg, and when one of these was opened, the rest of the army 
was to join the advanced corps, be concentrated, and push the enemy 
away from Fredericksburg. 

I have advised you that on Monday, the 27th ulto., my corps, 
the Fifth, together with the Eleventh and Twelfth, left camp and 
reached Kelly's Ford on the 28th. That night and early next morn- 
ing we crossed the Rappahannock, the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps 
moving on one road to Germanna Ford and I on another to Ely's 
ford, of the Rapidan. These fords were reached and crossed by the 

1 Battle of Chancellorsville, May 3-5, 1863. Federal loss, killed, wounded, 
and missing, 12,145 (0. R.). 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 371 

evening of the 29th. On the 30th we advanced and concentrated at 
Chancellorsville, a small place on the plank road from Fredericksburg 
to Gordonsville, and distant some ten miles from Fredericksburg. In 
this movement we uncovered the United States ford and established 
communication with our left wing opposite Fredericksburg; thus far 
the movement was successful. On the 1st inst. two more corps were 
brought over to Chancellorsville, and the Fifth and Twelfth corps 
advanced from Chancellorsville towards Fredericksburg; but just as 
we reached the enemy we were recalled. On our retiring the enemy 
attacked Sykes's division of my corps and we had a smart fight till 
dark. The next day, May 2d, the enemy attacked in force, and 
after a day's hard fighting, owing to the bad behavior of a portion 
of our troops, the Eleventh Corps, we had to fall back and draw in 
our lines. 

I ought to have mentioned that, simultaneously with our cross- 
ing the Rappahannock above, Sedgwick and Reynolds crossed below 
Fredericksburg, and after occupying the attention of the enemy, so 
soon as we were established at Chancellorsville, they were withdrawn, 
and Reynolds joined us on the 30th. When the force of the enemy 
was perceived, Sedgwick was ordered to recross at Fredericksburg 
and attack in their rear, which he did, on the 2d inst. On the 3d 
we had a very heavy fight, in which we held our own, but did not 
advance, awaiting Sedgwick's operations. On the 4th remained 
quiet, and in the evening learned that Sedgwick was held in check 
by superior forces, and his position critical. The enemy not attack- 
ing us on the 5th, as we hoped, and finding him too strong to attack 
without danger of sacrificing the army in case of defeat, Hooker de- 
termined to withdraw to this side of the river, which we did without 
pursuit, on the night of the 5th. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 8, 1863. 
When I last wrote I could get no definite information of George's 1 
whereabouts, but to-day Captain Newhall 2 has returned to head- 
quarters and reports the cavalry all back across the Rappahannock, 
except two regiments that continued on and have arrived at York- 
town, having succeeded in destroying several bridges on the railroads 
from hence and Gordonsville to Richmond. Unfortunately our with- 
drawal across the Rappahannock will prevent advantage being taken 

1 Son of General Meade. 

2 Frederick C. Newhall, of Philadelphia, aide-de-camp to General Pleasanton. 



372 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

of the cavalry success, as they will now have time to repair damages 
before we can get at them again. 

Just after closing my letter yesterday I was summoned to head- 
quarters, where I found the President and General Halleck. The 
former said he had come down to enquire for himself as to the con- 
dition of affairs and desired to see corps commanders. He and Hal- 
leck spent a couple of hours, took lunch, and talked of all sorts of 
things, but nothing was said of our recent operations, or any refer- 
ence made to the future, nor was any corps commander called on for 
an opinion. The President remarked that the result was in his judg- 
ment most unfortunate; that he did not blame any one — he believed 
every one had done all in his power; and that the disaster was one 
that could not be helped. Nevertheless he thought its effect, both 
at home and abroad, would be more serious and injurious than any 
previous act of the war. In this I agree with him; and when it comes 
to be known that it might and should have been avoided, I think the 
country will hold some one responsible. My conscience and record 
are fortunately clear. I opposed the withdrawal with all my influ- 
ence, and I tried all I could, on Sunday morning, to be permitted to 
take my corps into action, and to have a general battle with the 
whole army engaged, but I was overruled and censured for sending 
in a brigade of Humphreys's, which I did in spite of orders to the 
contrary. General Hooker has disappointed all his friends by fail- 
ing to show his fighting qualities at the pinch. He was more cau- 
tious and took to digging quicker even than McClellan, thus prov- 
ing that a man may talk very big when he has no responsibility, but 
that it is quite a different thing, acting when you are responsible 
and talking when others are. Who would have believed a few days 
ago that Hooker would withdraw his army, in opposition to the opin- 
ion of a majority of his corps commanders? yet such is absolutely 
and actually the case. 

My corps did not have much of a chance. On Friday, Sykes's 
division had a very handsome little affair, in which his command 
behaved very well and gained decided advantages, driving the enemy 
before them; but Sykes was recalled just as his advance was success- 
ful. In the evening he repelled an attack of the enemy. On Sunday, 
Humphreys's two brigades were engaged, creditably and successfully, 
and on Monday a brigade of Griffin's was sent forward to engage 
and feel the enemy's position, which duty was successfully accom- 
plished. The heavy fighting, however, of Saturday and Sunday was 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 373 

done by Slocuni, Couch and Sickles, particularly the latter, whose 
losses are greater than any other corps, unless it be Sedgwick's, which 
suffered very severely in his attempt to attack the enemy from Fred- 
ericksburg. 

I have been a good deal flattered by the expression of opinion on 
the part of many officers, that they thought and wished I should be 
placed in command, and poor Hooker himself, after he had deter- 
mined to withdraw, said to me, in the most desponding manner, that 
he was ready to turn over to me the Army of the Potomac; that he 
had enough of it, and almost wished he had never been born. Since 
seeing the President, however, he seems in better spirits, and I sup- 
pose, unless some strong pressure is brought to bear from external 
sources, he will not be disturbed. Hooker has one great advantage 
over his predecessors in not having any intriguer among his subor- 
dinate generals, who are working like beavers to get him out and 
themselves in. 

For some reason or other they have prohibited bringing news- 
papers to camp, so that I am completely in the dark as to public 
opinion. 

Camp near Falmouth, May 10, 1863. 
There is a great deal of talking in the camp, and I see the press 
is beginning to attack Hooker. I think these last operations have 
shaken the confidence of the army in Hooker's judgment, particu- 
larly among the superior officers, I have been much gratified at the 
frequent expression of opinion that I ought to be placed in command. 
Three of my seniors (Couch, Slocum and Sedgwick) have sent me 
word that they were willing to serve under me. Couch, I hear, told 
the President he would not serve any longer under Hooker, and rec- 
ommended my assignment to the command. I mention all this con- 
fidentially. I do not attach any importance to it, and do not believe 
there is the slightest probability of my being placed in command. I 
think I know myself, and am sincere when I say I do not desire the 
command; hence I can quietly attend to my duties, uninfluenced by 
what is going on around me, at the same time expressing, as I feel, 
great gratification that the army and my senior generals should think 
so well of my services and capacity as to be willing to serve under 
me. Having no political influence, being no intriguer, and indeed 
unambitious of the distinction, it is hardly probable I shall be called 
on to accept or decline. I see the papers attribute Hooker's with- 



374 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

drawal to the weak councils of his corps commanders. This is a 
base calumny. Four out of six of his corps commanders were posi- 
tive and emphatic in their opposition to the withdrawal, and he did 
it contrary to their advice. Hooker, however, I should judge, feels 
very secure, and does not seem concerned. I have no idea what his 
next move will be. For my part it would seem that all projects 
based on pursuing this line of operations having been tried and failed, 
we should try some other route. Yet the Administration is so wedded 
to this line that it will be difficult to get authority to change. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 12, 1863. 

I did not suppose you would credit the canard in the papers about 
our crossing and Lee's retreating. This story, however, with minute 
details, I see is published in Forney's Press, an Administration 
organ, that must have known and did know better. It has been 
circulated for some purpose, and is doubtless considered a great piece 
of strategy. There is no doubt Hooker assured the President that 
he would soon cross again and repair all disaster, but I fear he finds 
the execution of this promise more difficult than the making. The 
enemy have all returned to their old positions and they have been 
seen to-day busily engaged throwing up dirt and strengthening all the 
crossings by additional works, though one would suppose, from the 
work they had previously executed, there was no room for more. 

To-day I had a visit from Governor Curtin. The Governor is 
very much depressed, and I tried to put him in better spirits. 

I cannot write you fully in relation to all the recent operations. 
All I can say is that Hooker has disappointed the army and myself, 
in failing to show the nerve and coup d'ail at the critical moment, 
which all had given him credit for before he was tried. It is another 
proof of what a sense of responsibility will do to modify a man's 
character, and should be a warning to all of us to be very cautious 
how we criticise our neighbors, or predict what we would do our- 
selves if placed in similar circumstances. My only fear is that 
Hooker, goaded by the attacks that are now made on him, may be 
induced to take some desperate step in the hope of retrieving his 
waning fortunes. At the same time, as I have already told you, he 
was fully aware when he ordered the withdrawal of the army, that 
he was running the risk, and great risk, of self-sacrifice. For he said 
he knew his personal interests were involved in advancing. I believe 
he acted sincerely, and for what he considered the interests of the 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 375 

army and the country, but I differed with him in judgment, and I 
fear events will confirm my view. I was clearly in favor of tempt- 
ing the hazard of the die, and letting Washington take care of itself. 
I am sorry for Hooker, because I like him and my relations have 
always been agreeable with him; but I cannot shut my eyes to the 
fact that he has on this occasion missed a brilliant opportunity of 
making himself. Our losses are terrible; they are said to exceed 
fifteen thousand men, greater than in any other battle or series of 
battles, greater than in the whole of the celebrated six days' fighting 
before Richmond, and greater than McClellan's Maryland cam- 
paign. This large loss, together with the loss of over twenty thou- 
sand nine-months' and two-years' men, will very materially reduce 
this army, and unless it be speedily reinforced will paralyze its 
movements. 

Stoneman's success was very complete, and his whole operation 
brilliant in the extreme. The enemy acknowledge he has beaten 
Stuart, and that the latter's laurels are faded. Alas, that we should 
not have taken advantage of his success! As it is, before we can 
advance or press them back, they will have repaired all the damages 
Stoneman inflicted on them. 

May 13, 1863. 
I have not been a great deal at headquarters, being occupied with 
my command, particularly writing my official report. I have com- 
pleted this and gotten it off my hands, which is a great relief. There 
is much talking in the army, but I doubt very much whether Hooker 
is in any danger of losing his command. The Government seems to 
be satisfied with him, judging from the tone of those papers known 
to be connected with it. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 15, 1863. 
I received to-day your letter of the 12th instant, advising me of 
George's 1 arrival at home, which relieved me greatly, although I only 
yesterday learned of his being sick and having gone to Washington. 
In utter ignorance of his being sick, and supposing him with his 
regiment, I saw Hooker and got the order issued assigning him to 
duty on my staff. It was only my accidentally meeting Lieutenant 

1 Son of General Meade, taken sick with the measles while on Stoneman's 
cavalry raid, and having to ford a deep river, the rash was driven in, making him 
ill, necessitating his being sent home. 



376 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

Furness, 1 of George's regiment, on Stoneman's staff, who first told me 
George had been very sick on the expedition, but that he was better, 
and that he (Furness) had seen George and Benoni Lockwood both 
in the cars on their way to Washington. 

I have been very much worried to-day by very extraordinary 
conduct on the part of Governor Curtin. He came to see me, and 
in the familiarity of private conversation, after expressing himself 
very much depressed, drew out of me opinions such as I have writ- 
ten to you about General Hooker, in which I stated my disappoint- 
ment at the caution and prudence exhibited by General Hooker at 
the critical moment of the battle; at his assuming the defensive, 
when I thought the offensive ought to have been assumed; and at the 
withdrawal of the army, to which I was opposed. This opinion was 
expressed privately, as one gentleman would speak to another; was 
never intended for the injury of General Hooker, or for any other pur- 
pose than simply to make known my views. Imagine, then, my sur- 
prise when General Hooker, who has just returned from Washington, 
sent for me, and said that General Cadwalader had told him that 
Governor Curtin had reported in Washington that he (General 
Hooker) had entirely lost the confidence of the army, and that both 
Generals Reynolds and Meade had lost all confidence in him. Of 
course, I told Hooker that Governor Curtin had no warrant for using 
my name in this manner. I then repeated to Hooker what I had 
said to Governor Curtin, and told him that he knew that I had dif- 
fered with him in judgment on the points above stated, and that he 
had no right to complain of my expressing my views to others, which 
he was aware I had expressed to him at the time the events were 
occurring. To this Hooker assented and expressed himself satisfied 
with my statement. 



To John Sergeant Meade : 2 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 17, 1863. 
There is nothing specially new here. We have lost many men 
by the casualties of the recent battle, and many more since by reason 
of the expiration of service. In the meantime, the enemy have been 
largely reinforced from the army recently on the Blackwater. Under 
these circumstances I don't see how we can advance without addi- 

1 Frank Furness, of Philadelphia. 2 Son of General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 377 

tional troops, and as yet I do not hear of any coming. Still, the talk 
is that we are to move very soon. Yesterday I went to see General 
Stoneman and Lieutenant Colonel. Smith 1 , to thank them for their 
kindness to George 2 , which I did, and said a great many fine things 
on the part of your mother. Stoneman said he was afraid George 
would have considered him rough and harsh, as he had to change him 
in a dark, rainy night from a buggy to a wagon, in a great hurry, and 
had to speak very sharply. I told him that George remembered 
nothing but his exceeding kindness. 



To Mrs. George G. Meade: 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 19, 1863. 
I am sorry to tell you I am at open war with Hooker. He yes- 
terday came to see me and referred to an article in the Herald, 
stating that four of his corps commanders were opposed to the with- 
drawal of the army. He said this was not so, and that Reynolds and 
myself had determined him to withdraw. I expressed the utmost 
surprise at this statement; when he said that I had expressed the 
opinion that it was impracticable to withdraw the army, and there- 
fore I had favored an advance, and as he knew it was perfectly prac- 
ticable to withdraw, he did not consider my opinion as being in favor 
of an advance. I replied to him that this was a very ingenious way 
of stating what I had said; that my opinion was clear and emphatic 
for an advance; that I had gone so far as to say that I would not 
be governed by any consideration regarding the safety of Washington, 
for I thought that argument had paralyzed this army too long. I 
further said that if the enemy were considered so strong that the 
safety of the army might be jeopardized in attacking them, then I 
considered a withdrawal impracticable without running greater risk 
of destroying the army than by advancing, and that it seemed rather 
singular that he should set me down as the advocate of a measure 
which he acknowledged I asserted to be impracticable. He reiter- 
ated his opinion and said he should proclaim it. I answered I should 
deny it, and should call on those who were present to testify as to 
whether he or I was right. The fact is, he now finds he has com- 
mitted a grave error, which at the time he was prepared to assume 
the responsibility of, but now desires to cast it off on to the shoulders 
of others; but I rather think he will find himself mistaken. At any 

1 Charles R. Smith, of Philadelphia. 2 Son of General Meade. 



378 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

rate, the entente cordiale is destroyed between us, and I don't regret 
it, as it makes me more independent and free. I also told him that 
it was my impression at the time, but that of course it could only 
be known to himself and his God, that he had made up his mind to 
withdraw the army before he had heard the opinions of his corps 
commanders. To this he did not make any reply, and I am satis- 
fied that such was the case. I have not seen Reynolds, or any of 
the others present on the occasion, since I had this conversation with 
him, but I intend to address each a letter and ask for their impres- 
sions of what I did say. Such things are very painful and embar- 
rassing, but I have always feared the time would come when they 
would be inevitable with Hooker; for I knew no one would be per- 
mitted to stand in his way. I suppose he has heard some of the 
stories flying round camp in regard to my having the command, and 
these, in connection with what George Cadwalader told him Governor 
Curtin said, have induced him to believe that I am maneuvering to 
get him relieved, that I may step in his shoes. God knows the in- 
justice he does me, and that I have never spoken a word to any one 
except Governor Curtin, and to him I never referred to Hooker's 
being relieved, but only criticised his recent operations, saying noth- 
ing more, or if as much, as I have written to you. I can tell him 
that if he had no stronger enemy than I am, he might rest much 
more secure than he can, knowing all that I do. I wish he could 
hear what some others say; he would look on me very differently. 

There are two English officers on a visit to the camp. One of 
them, Lord Abinger (formerly Mr. Scarlett), Lieutenant Colonel of 
the Scots Fusileer Guards, brought me a letter from George Ramsay. 
I am going to-morrow to review my corps, and have invited them to 
be present. Lord Abinger seems a very nice fellow. He was in 
Philadelphia in 1857, and speaks a great deal about his visit and the 
people there. He recognized Major Biddle, asked after his mother, 
and altogether appears quite at home in Philadelphia society. 

I have lost nearly a division by the expiration of service of the 
two-years' and nine-months' men, so that I have had to break up 
Humphreys's division, and he is going to take command of the divi- 
sion recently commanded by General Berry, in Sickles's corps. I 
am very sorry to lose Humphreys. He is a most valuable officer, 
besides being an associate of the most agreeable character. 

My relations with Hooker are such that I cannot ask for the 
necessary leave to go up to Washington, to receive my sword; so 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 379 

unless they take some action and get the Secretary to authorize my 
going up, I fear it will be some time before I come into possession. 
Just think, it is nearly two years, indeed over two years, since 
we have been separated. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 20, 1863. 
The battle of Chancellorsville was a miserable failure, in which 
Hooker disappointed me greatly. His plan was admirably designed, 
and the early part of it, entrusted to others, was well executed; but 
after he had assembled his army on the other side near Chancellors- 
ville, instead of striking at once vigorously and instantly, before the 
enemy, who were surprised, could concentrate, he delayed; gave 
them thirty-six hours to bring up and dispose of their troops; per- 
mitted them to attack him, and after their doing so, failed to take 
advantage of their error in dividing and separating their forces, but 
allowed them to engage only about half his army and to unite their 
forces after driving back a portion of ours. He then assumed the 
defensive, doing nothing for two days, while we could hear Sedg- 
wick's guns, and knew they were trying to crush him and must suc- 
ceed. Finally he withdrew to this side, giving up all the advantages 
gained, and having to recross with all the obstacles and difficulties 
increased. Notwithstanding these are my views, I have abstained 
from making them known to any one, out of consideration for Hooker, 
who has always pretended to be very friendly to me. I declined to 
join Couch in a representation to the President, when he was down 
here, and I refused to join Slocum, who desired to take action to 
have Hooker removed. I told both these gentlemen I would not 
join in any movement against Hooker, but that if the President chose 
to call on me officially for my opinions, I would give them. I have 
spoken to no one but Governor Curtin, and to him only because he 
came to see me and spoke so freely and bitterly against Hooker, that 
I allowed myself to say a part of what I have above written. I con- 
sidered my conversation with Governor Curtin private, and did not 
expect he would repeat it or quote me. I have seen Senators Wade, 
Chandler, Wilson and Doolittle, all of whom have been down here 
to find out what they could, but I have abstained from saying any- 
thing, as they did not think proper to ask me any questions. Hooker 
is safe, I think, from the difficulty of finding a successor, and from the 
ridiculous appearance we present of changing our generals after each 
battle. He may, and I trust he will, do better next time; but unless 



380 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

he shows more aptitude than in the last affair, he will be very apt 
to be defeated again. Lee committed a terrible blunder in allowing 
us to come back; he might have destroyed us by a vigorous attack 
while we were retreating. 

The review of my corps passed off very well yesterday, and Lord 
Abinger expressed himself greatly pleased. After the review I had 
a collation at my quarters, which seemed to be equally pleasing to his 
lordship. He said that if he had time to stop in Philadelphia, he 
would hunt you up. 

Turnbull, who was at the review, showed me a few lines he had re- 
ceived from Proctor Smith, by a flag of truce that went after the 
wounded. Smith is Chief Engineer on Lee's staff. He begs to be 
remembered to you and me. Beckham is major of artillery and 
commands a battery with Stuart's cavalry. Smith is colonel. 

Camp neah Falmouth, Va., May 23, 1863. 
The story of Hooker losing his head, and my saving the army, is 
a canard, founded on some plausible basis. When Hooker was obliged 
to give up Chancellorsville and draw in his lines, T fortunately had 
anticipated this, and was prepared with my troops to take up the 
new line in a very short time, and to receive within it the broken 
columns from the old line. About this time Hooker, who had just 
been stunned by being struck with a pillar of a house, hit by a shot, 
felt himself fainting and had to dismount from his horse and lie on 
his back for ten or fifteen minutes. During this time he was con- 
stantly calling for me, and this operation above referred to was exe- 
cuted by me. Outsiders, particularly his staff, not knowing my pre- 
vious preparations and expectation of having to do this, and seeing 
it so well and quickly done, were astonished, and gave me more credit 
than I was entitled to, and hence arose the story that I saved the 
army. Hooker never lost his head, nor did he ever allow himself to be 
influenced by me or my advice. The objection I have to Hooker is 
that he did not and would not listen to those around him; that he acted 
deliberately on his own judgment, and in doing so, committed, as I 
think, fatal errors. If he had lost his head, and I had been placed 
in command, you may rest assured a very different result would have 
been arrived at, whether better or worse for us cannot be told now; 
but it certainly would have been more decisive one way or the other. 
Secretary Chase was in camp day before yesterday at headquarters. 
He neither honored me with a visit, nor did he invite me to visit 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 381 

him; of course I did not see him. He returned in the afternoon, 
accompanied by Wilkes, of the Spirit of the Times. It is under- 
stood that the Cabinet is divided, Chase upholding Hooker, Blair 
and Seward in opposition. I have always thought Hooker would 
be allowed another chance, and I sincerely trust and hope, and in- 
deed believe, he will do better, as I think he now sees the policy of 
caution is not a good one. Until our recent imbroglio, he has always 
spoken of me very warmly, though he has never asked my advice, 
or listened to my suggestions. What he is going to do or say now I 
don't know, but I shall not count on any very friendly offices from 
him. Still, I should be sorry to see him removed, unless a decidedly 
better man is substituted. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 25, 1863. 

I have addressed a circular letter to each of the officers present 
at the much-talked-of council of war, asking them to give me their 
recollections of what I said, and unless I am terribly mistaken, their 
answers will afford me ample means of refuting Hooker's assertion 
that my opinion sustained him in withdrawing the army. 

We have to-day the glorious news from Grant. 1 It is in sad con- 
trast with our miserable fiasco here, the more sad when you reflect 
that ours was entirely unnecessary, and that we have never had such 
an opportunity of gaining a great victory before. 

Did I tell you that Curtin promptly answered my letter, saying 
that General Cadwalader had entirely misapprehended what he said 
to him; that he (Curtin) had never so understood me, or repeated 
to Cadwalader that I had lost all confidence in Hooker? 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., May 26, 1863. 

George's 2 appointment as Aide-de-Camp and Captain arrived yes- 
terday. 

We have nothing new; everything is quiet on our side. I am 
looking for a movement on the part of the enemy that will stir us up 
pretty soon. Stoneman is off on leave, and I don't think will return 
here again. He does not want to, and Hooker does not want him 
back. Hooker is very severe on him, and says his raid amounted 
to nothing at all; that he was eight days going and only two coming 

1 Vicksburg, Miss., invested by the Federal troops under Major-General 
Ulysses S. Grant. Confederate troops under General John C. Pemberton. 

2 Son of General Meade. 



382 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

back, and many other things of this kind tending to disparage Stone- 
man. 

Only one officer (Reynolds) has as yet answered my circular letter, 
and he says: " Your opinion was decided and emphatic for an advance 
at daylight." The attempt to fasten on me the responsibility of 
withdrawing the army is one of the shallowest inventions that Hooker 
could have devised, which, if he ever brings to a public issue, must 
recoil on him. 

There are many things I would like to tell you, but cannot at 
present; but I have no doubt in due time they will all be made 
public. I have no doubt the Administration has determined to sus- 
tain Hooker, and to this I do not object, as I really believe he will 
do better next time, and still think there is a great deal of merit in 
him. 

Camp near Falmouth, Va., June 3, 1863. 
George made his appearance this morning; he seems quite de- 
lighted with the change in his position, and particularly tickled at 
being made a captain. Lieutenant Colonel Webb (son of James 
Watson Webb), who is on my staff, has just returned from a short 
leave in New York. He says every one in New York is talking of 
the fight at Chancellorsville, and is well posted up in all its details. 

Camp above Falmouth, June 6, 1863. 
My last letter told you that my corps had been moved up the 
river, charged with the duty of guarding the several crossing places, 
and preventing, if possible, the passage of the river by the enemy. 
General Hooker had received intelligence which induced him to be- 
lieve Lee was about attempting a manoeuvre similar to the one we 
tried last month. I have consequently been actively employed riding 
about, superintending the posting of troops, giving instructions, etc. 
As yet everything has been very quiet on our part of the line. To-day, 
however, Hooker had reason to believe most of the enemy had left 
his immediate front on the heights back of Fredericksburg. He ac- 
cordingly undertook to throw a bridge across, where Franklin crossed 
last December. About ^ve o'clock yesterday evening we heard heavy 
firing, which lasted nearly two hours, which, I understand, was our 
batteries, endeavoring to drive the enemy from the rifle-pits they had 
dug to oppose the construction of the bridge. I do not know whether 
we succeeded or not, as, being some miles away, I have no means of 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 383 

ascertaining. It has been my opinion for some time that Lee would 
assume the offensive so soon as he was reinforced sufficiently to jus- 
tify him in doing so; but whether he has yet commenced is, I think, 
not positively settled. Nor have I quite made up my mind what he 
will do when he moves. I should think it would be policy on his 
part to endeavor to overcome this army before he undertakes any 
invasion of the North. His experience of last summer should teach 
him the danger of leaving an army on his flank and rear, and if he 
can once destroy or cripple this army, he will have no opposition to 
his progress of invasion. It is this reasoning which makes me wonder 
at the supineness and apathy of the Government and people, leav- 
ing this army reduced as it has been by casualties of battle and ex- 
piration of service, and apparently making no effort to reinforce it. 

June 8, 1863. 
I think for the present the storm has blown over. Both Lee and 
Hooker appear to be playing at cross-purposes. Hooker took it into 
his head that Lee was moving and made preparations accordingly. 
These preparations were construed by Lee into a movement on our 
part, etc. Sedgwick is still, I understand, across, below Fredericks- 
burg, but is unmolested by the enemy. Pleasanton, with a large force 
of cavalry, will cross above to-day, and push his way towards Cul- 
peper and Gordonsville, to see what they are doing in that direction. 

Camp, June 11, 1863. 
This army is weakened, and its morale not so good as at the last 
battle, and the enemy are undoubtedly stronger and in better morale. 
Still, I do not despair, but that if they assume the offensive and force 
us into a defensive attitude, that our morale will be raised, and with 
a moderate degree of good luck and good management, we will give 
them better than they can send. War is very uncertain in its re- 
sults, and often when affairs look the most desperate they suddenly 
assume a more hopeful state. See the changes and transitions at 
Vicksburg, to say nothing of our own experience. This makes me 
hope that it will be our turn next time. The day before yesterday 
Pleasanton, with all the cavalry and two brigades of infantry, crossed 
just above us, and had a very brilliant affair with the enemy's cav- 
alry, who it appears were just ready and about starting on a grand 
raid, some say into Pennsylvania. 1 They outnumbered us, but after 
1 Battle of Brandy Station, Va., June 9, 1863. ' 



384 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

handling them pretty severely, Pleasanton came back. The Lancers 
particularly distinguished themselves, though I am sorry to hear with 
considerable loss. 1 It is said Major Morris 2 is missing, supposed to 
have been thrown from his horse and fallen into the enemy's hands. 
Captain Davis 3 was killed. Lennig 4 is missing, believed to be 
wounded. Captain Leiper 5 is missing. Lieutenant Ellis 6 is wounded. 
Lieutenant Colladay, 7 missing. Charley Cadwalader 8 was with them, 
also Captain Dahlgren, of General Hooker's staff. This latter officer 
says he was with Morris, and had just jumped a ditch, when his 
horse was shot. On dismounting, and looking around, he saw Mor- 
ris's horse without a rider, and he thinks Morris was thrown in jump- 
ing the ditch. Charles Coxe 9 is all right, so also is Willie White, 10 who 
had two horses shot under him, and broke two sabres. Newhalt 11 
was on Pleasanton's staff, and was not with the regiment when it 
made a dashing and gallant charge on a battery, getting in among 
the guns, which they would have captured had they been promptly 
supported. Harry Winsor 12 is safe, also Welsh. 13 I am glad the regi- 
ment has had a chance and so brilliantly availed themselves of it. 
George 14 is quite disgusted with his luck, but I tell him a live dog is 
better than a dead lion. 

The backing out of Burnside's course towards the Chicago Times 
looks suspicious on the part of the President. If peace can be 
secured without loss of honor, no one would be more rejoiced than I; 
but I do not see how this can be brought about, with matters as 
they stand at present. If we could only thoroughly whip these fel- 
lows two or three times, regular out-and-out defeats; but I don't 
advocate peace until we have clearly shown them, as we ought to 
have done long since, our superiority in the field. I can hardly ex- 
pect you to enter fully into these views, but if you had been humili- 
ated as I have been by seeing your cause and party defeated when 
they should be victorious, you would be roiled, too, and would not 
be willing to give up till things assumed an aspect more consistent 
with your pride and honor. 

1 "Rush's Lancers," 6th Pa. Cav. 

2 Robert Morris, Jr., of Philadelphia, captured and died in Libby Prison. 

3 Charles B. Davis, of Philadelphia. 4 Thompson Lennig, of Philadelphia. 
5 Charles L. Leiper, of Philadelphia. 6 Rudolph Ellis, of Philadelphia. 

7 Samuel R. Colladay. 8 Charles E. Cadwalader, of Philadelphia. 

9 Charles B. Coxe, of Philadelphia. 10 William White, of Philadelphia,. 

11 Frederick C. Newhall, of Philadelphia. 12 Henry Winsor, Jr., of Boston. 
13 Osgood Welsh, of Philadelphia. 14 Son of General Meade. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 385 

We are now on the qui vive to know what the enemy are going 
to do. I am removed from Hooker's headquarters and know noth- 
ing of what is going on, either of plans or surmises. In some respects 
this is convenient, as I am spared much speculation. In other re- 
spects it is not so agreeable, because I like to form my own judgment 
on what is going on, and to make my preparations accordingly. If 
Lee is going to assume the offensive, I presume he will not long 
delay; but whether he will move to our right, trying to get between 
us and Washington, or whether he will move up the valley as he did 
last summer, or whether he will attack us here, are questions the 
future only can solve. All we can do is to be on the lookout and 
ready. Perhaps Hooker may find a chance to assume the offensive 
and reverse matters, as the enemy did at Chancellorsville. This I 
think would be good luck for us. 

Camp above Falmouth, June 13, 1863. 
Everything continues very quiet, and two corps having been 
moved above me on the river, I feel quite secure and comfortable. 
Reynolds moved up yesterday, and stopped to see me as he passed. 
He told me that being informed by a friend in Washington, that he 
was talked of for the command of this army, he immediately went 
to the President and told him he did not want the command and 
would not take it. He spoke, he says, very freely to the President 
about Hooker, but the President said he was not disposed to throw 
away a gun because it missed fire once; that he would pick the lock 
and try it again. To-day I hear Hooker is going to place Reynolds 
in command of the right wing of the army — that is, his corps, Bir- 
ney's and mine. 

Camp near Manassas, June 16, 1863. 
George 1 wrote to you yesterday and informed you the army had 
been withdrawn from the Rappahannock. We are now collecting 
in the vicinity of this place and Centreville, awaiting orders; I pre- 
sume, also, the development of the enemy's movements. He has 
not as yet followed us from the Rappahannock, and it is reported 
that he is in heavy force up the Valley of the Shenandoah, having 
taken Harper's Ferry and advanced to Chambersburg. I think Lee 
has made a mistake in going into Maryland before meeting our army. 
I hope his movement will arouse the North, and that now men enough 

1 Son of General Meade. 



386 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

will be turned out, not only to drive him back, but to follow and 
crush him. If his course does not awake the North from the leth- 
argy it has been in, nothing will ever save us. We have had the 
usual hard service of active operations for the last few days, loss of 
rest and hard riding, but both George and I stand it very well. 

Green Springs, Va., 1 June 18, 1863. 
We reached here last evening, on our way to Leesburg. The 
enemy, as far as we can learn, are in the Valley of the Shenandoah, 
occupying the line they did when McClellan crossed the Potomac 
last fall. We cannot learn that any great force has crossed into 
Maryland or Pennsylvania. Should this prove true, we shall have 
to go to the valley after them. 

Aldie, June 20, 1863. 
We came here yesterday afternoon to sustain Pleasanton, who 
has had several brilliant skirmishes with the enemy's cavalry in this 
vicinity, and who thought they were bringing up infantry. To-day 
we hear Ewell has crossed the Potomac at Williamsport. This indi- 
cates an invasion of Maryland, of which I have hitherto been skep- 
tical. If this should prove true, we will have to rush after them. 
I had almost rather they would come here and save us marches. I 
am in pretty good spirits — a little disgusted at the smallness of my 
corps, only ten thousand men, but I believe they will do as much 
as any equal numbers. 

Camp at Aldie, Va., June 23, 1863. 

Yesterday General Pleasanton drove the enemy's cavalry across 
what is called the Loudoun Valley, or the valley formed by the 
South Mountain and Bull Run Mountains. He did not find any 
infantry in Loudoun Valley, and reports Lee's army about Win- 
chester, in the Valley of the Shenandoah, and that A. P. Hill, whom 
we left at Fredericksburg, is coming up the valley to join Lee. When 
Hill joins Lee, he will have a large army, numerically much superior 
to ours, and he will then, I presume, develop his plans. 

I have seen a paper now and then, and have been greatly amused 
at the evident fears of the good people of the North, and the utter 
want of proper spirit in the measures proposed to be taken. I did 
think at first that the rebels crossing the line would result in benefit 

1 Gum Springs on map. 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 387 

to our cause, by arousing the people to a sense of the necessity of 
raising men to fill their armies to defend the frontier, and that the 
Government would take advantage of the excitement to insist on the 
execution of the enrollment bill; but when I see the President calling 
out six months' men, and see the troops at Harrisburg refusing to 
be mustered in for fear they may be kept six months in service, I 
give up in despair. I hope it will turn out better, and we have been 
disappointed so many times when we had reason to look for success, 
it may be, now that we are preparing for a reverse, we may suddenly 
find ourselves in luck. 

This is a beautiful country where I am now encamped. It is 
right on the Bull Run Mountains, which, though not very high, yet 
are sufficiently so to give effect to the scenery and purify the air. 
Charles F. Mercer lived in Aldie; President Monroe's estate was 
here, and the mansion of the old Berkeley family, showing that in 
old times it was the abode of the aristocracy. It is a great contrast 
to the arid region around Fredericksburg that we left. 

Camp at Aldie, Va., June 25, 1863. 
Reynolds's honors, commanding the right wing, only lasted two 
days, for as soon as we got to Manassas, General Hooker informed 
him he would communicate direct with corps commanders. Rey- 
nolds was at first quite indignant, and took it into his head that 
Hooker expected our withdrawal from the Rappahannock was going 
to be disputed, and that he had selected him for a scapegoat to bear 
the brunt of the shock. Everything, however, passed off quietly, as 
Lee was well on his way up the Valley of the Shenandoah, and A. P. 
Hill, who was left to guard Fredericksburg, was glad enough to let 
us go, that he might follow Lee, as he has done and rejoined him, 
although we could readily have prevented him, and in my judgment 
should have done so. What Lee's object is in moving up the valley 
is not yet clearly developed. He has massed his army between Win- 
chester and Martinsburg. The invasion of Maryland and Pennsyl- 
vania, so far as I can gather, has as yet been a mere foraging expe- 
dition, collecting supplies and horses for his army. He does not, at 
the latest accounts, seem to have crossed any of his good troops; he 
has perhaps been waiting for Hill, also to see what Hooker and the 
authorities at Washington were going to do, before he struck a blow. 
That he has assumed the offensive and is going to strike a blow there 
can be no doubt, and that it will be a very formidable one is equally 



388 LIFE AND LETTERS OF GENERAL MEADE 

certain, unless his forces have been very much exaggerated. He is 
said to have collected over ninety thousand infantry and fifteen thou- 
sand cavalry, with a large amount of artillery. Hooker has at pres- 
ent no such force to oppose him, but I trust the Government will 
reinforce Hooker with troops that have been scattered at Suffolk, 
Baltimore, Washington and other places, and that such will be the 
case seems probable, from a despatch I received from headquarters 
yesterday, asking me if I would like to have the Pennsylvania Re- 
serves attached to my corps. I replied, promptly: "Yes; they or 
any other reinforcements that could be obtained." I understand 
the Reserves are seven thousand strong, which will be a very de- 
cided addition to my present weak corps. I have seen very few pa- 
pers lately, and therefore know little or nothing of what is going on. 
I see you are still troubled with visions of my being placed in 
command. I thought that had all blown over, and I think it has, 
except in your imagination, and that of some others of my kind 
friends. I have no doubt great efforts have been made to get Mc- 
Clellan back, and advantage has been taken of the excitement pro- 
duced by the invasion of Maryland to push his claims; but his friends 
ought to see that his restoration is out of the question, so long as the 
present Administration remains in office, and that until they can re- 
move Stanton and Chase, all hope of restoring McClellan is idle. I 
have no doubt, as you surmise, his friends would look with no favor 
on my being placed in command. They could not say I was an 
unprincipled intriguer, who had risen by criticising and defaming my 
predecessors and superiors. They could not say I was incompetent, 
because I have not been tried, and so far as I have been tried I have 
been singularly successful. They could not say I had never been 
under fire, because it is notorious no general officer, not even Fight- 
ing Joe himself, has been in more battles, or more exposed, than my 
record evidences. The only thing they can say, and I am willing 
to admit the justice of the argument, is that it remains to be seen 
whether I have the capacity to handle successfully a large army. I 
do not stand, however, any chance, because I have no friends, polit- 
ical or others, who press or advance my claims or pretensions, and 
there are so many others who are pressed by influential politicians 
that it is folly to think I stand any chance upon mere merit alone. 
Besides, I have not the vanity to think my capacity so pre-eminent, 
and I know there are plenty of others equally competent with myself, 
though their names may not have been so much mentioned. For 



CIVIL WAR LETTERS 389 

these reasons I have never indulged In any dreams of ambition, con- 
tented to await events, and do my duty in the sphere it pleases God 
to place me in, and I really think it would be as well for you to take 
the same philosophical view; but do you know, I think your ambi- 
tion is being roused and that you are beginning to be bitten with 
the dazzling prospect of having for a husband a commanding general 
of an army. How is this? 

This is a beautiful country we are now in, and we are reveling in 
lovely landscapes, with such luxuries as fresh butter, milk, eggs, lamb, 
chickens and other delicacies, to which we have for a long time been 
strangers. There are some nice people about here, though strong 
"secesh." I went the other day to see a fine view, which is to be 
had from the Monroe estate. It is at present in the hands of a Ma- 
jor Fairfax, who is on Longstreet's staff. While on the ground I re- 
ceived a polite message from Mrs. Fairfax, saying she would be glad 
to see me and show me the house, whereupon I called, and found 
her very affable and ladylike and very courteous. I apologized for 
my intrusion, but she said she did not so consider it; that she was 
always glad to see the officers of our army, knowing they took an 
interest in the place from its having been the former residence of a 
President of the United States. She referred to the war in a deli- 
cate manner, and said her husband, the Major, was at home when 
Pleasanton attacked Aldie, and that he had barely time to mount 
his horse and get off before their people were obliged to retire. I 
spent a half-hour chatting with her and left. Generally the women, 
when they find you are a gentleman, and not violent and bloodthirsty 
in your feelings, are disposed to be civil and affable. 

Young Morrow, of George's company, has returned from Rich- 
mond. He told George that he saw a great deal of Beckham when 
he was first captured, who inquired very particularly after me. 

Everything is very quiet here. The enemy have a small cavalry 
force watching us, but no signs of their army this side of the Blue 
Ridge. At what moment they may show themselves, or when we 
will advance, is more than I can tell. I hear nothing whatever from 
headquarters, and am as much in the dark as to proposed plans here 
on the ground as you are in Philadelphia. This is what Joe Hooker 
thinks profound sagacity — keeping his corps commanders, who are 
to execute his plans, in total ignorance of them until they are devel- 
oped in the execution of orders.